"Heartbeat of Home"
Reviewed by Sheila Barth
During the introduction to dance extravaganza “Heartbeat of Home,” last Thursday, Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, President-CEO Josiah Spaulding Jr. held a moment of silence to honor fallen Boston firefighters Lt. Edward Walsh Jr. and Michael Kennedy, who perished battling a fire in Back Bay. Spaulding also read a proclamation issued by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, officially commemorating March 27 as Heartbeat of Home Day. The mayor’s gesture was also in honor of the Irish dance troupe’s debut performance of “Riverdance” in Boston, two decades ago.
“Heartbeat of Home” appeared to sold-out crowds in Dublin, (where it debuted October 2013), across Ireland, and China, and is currently on its North American tour, where it continues to captivate audiences. Although this new show was created by the same genius producers and director of “Riverdance,” this magnificent multicultural, spectacular two-act production making its East Coast debut here, through April 6, is even more jaw-dropping. It fuses together traditional Irish, Latin, Spanish and Afro-Cuban, street and hip-hop music and dance. Punctuating people’s immigration from their native land to seek a better life, yet yearning for home in the first act, “Ocean of Dreams,” David Torpey/Image Now’s visually moving panoramic projections magnificently accent the theme, bordered by water, ranging from serene to stormy, serendipitous to sensational. Alan Farquaharson’s set, Peter Canning’s dramatic lighting, Ciaran Byrne’s sound effects, along with the group’s fantastic musicians, enhance “Heartbeat of Home,” creating a stirring experience for theatergoers.
From its energetic opening number, Heartbeat,” and “Emigrants’ Lament,” this lavish production features one heart-pounding number after another, oftentimes melding ethnicities. Bobby Hodges, Ciara Sexton and the Irish dance ensemble perform their gravity- and anatomical-defying taps, leaps, spins, stiff-legged, stiff-armed moves with stunning precision; flamenco dancers Rocio Montoya and Stefano Domit’s romantic quick-clicking heels and fluid beauty are poetry in motion; sinewy, acrobatic Afro-Cuban dancers Teneisha Bonner, Renako McDonald and Kieran Donovan ratchet up the excitement meter with their high energized routines; and Latin dancers Clare Craze, Curtis Angus, Vanessa Guevara and Angelo Gioffre burst onto the stage in bright-hued costumes, performing sizzling, hip-shaking routines.
The orchestra is seated on both sides, on movable multi-level platforms, facilitating solo performers who take center stage at times, performing haunting, and high-stepping interludes, or accompanying primary performers, such as drummer Steve Holloway and lead Irish dancer Bobby Hodges in their percussive duet. Vocalist Lucia Evans’ amazing range and dramatic delivery, enchants with every song, especially in her and the dancers‘ ethereal ballet, “Waltz of the Wild Wind Sea”.
Following a lone seabird on screen, across vast sea- and landscapes, the dancers flock together, flapping their arms, ready to take flight. Later, in “Lead Me Home/Reel of Arrivals,” a lone lighthouse beckons on the seas, and the Community Gospel Choir arises in the background, as the dancers,singers and musicians express their hope and longing.
In the second act, Heartbeat’s pulse bursts in an, energetic, multicultural upbeat street festival.
Also, male dancers garbed in gray, black and white, balancing on a moving construction beam, are breathtaking, performing against a backdrop of projected city skyscrapers and structures.
Gather the family and treat them to “Heartbeat of Home”. It’s an exquisite experience.