Rhythm of the Dance brings an Irish extravaganza to Sussex

Amy Marie Prior in Rhythm of the Dance. Picture by Wim Lanser
Amy Marie Prior in Rhythm of the Dance. Picture by Wim Lanser

The Irish step dance spectacular Rhythm of the Dance is celebrating 20 years this summer with a huge tour of the UK.

The award-winning show, which has been seen by more than seven million people worldwide, heads to Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre on Tuesday, June 18 (£26.50, 01323 412000); Hastings’ White Rock Theatre on Sunday, July 7 (£18.50-£26, 01424 462288); and Crawley’s Hawth Theatre on Tuesday, July 9 (£26.50, 01293 553636).

Rhythm of the Dance. Picture by Wim Lanser

Rhythm of the Dance. Picture by Wim Lanser

Featuring first-rate dancers and singers, a live band and 25 stunning costume changes, this production is inspired by the story of the Irish Celts and is one of the top three Irish step dance shows in the world.

Lead female dancer Amy Marie Prior has been with Rhythm of the Dance since 2015.

“The experience has been amazing,” she says. “I’m so grateful to be doing what I love as my job. I get to do so many different places around the world. At my age, 22, I’ve seen unbelievable venues and countries and met so many amazing people.”

“My first ever show was in Russia,” Amy continues. “It was for a sold-out venue in Moscow to 7,000 people. It was so scary, my first ever anything. I came straight out of a competition and went straight into a show.”

It may have been nerve-racking, but the standing ovation that followed, and subsequent successful shows, ensured that Amy was hooked on touring.

The places she’s been to include Russia, Holland, Switzerland, China, Canada and North America to name but a few.

Globe-trotting aside, what are the highlights of the actual production for Amy?

“I have a solo on my own with one of the musicians, the Bodhrán player, the drummer in the show,” she replies. “It’s just me in my heavy shoes showing off all my rhythms.”

“It’s really powerful and it’s a powerful number for a girl to be doing as well,” explains Amy. “Normally, for half the show the girls are in soft shoes and they’re being elegant, so this one for me is especially good because it shows that I’ve got power as well. It’s all live and heavy and you can hear all the rhythms.”

To an audience member, sat comfortably in a padded seat, this may sound like simple foot-stomping fun, but the intricate, fast and demanding dances require performers to be in peak physical condition.

And the shows themselves provide Amy with enough of a workout.

“I don’t really have too much exercise before the show or after because it’s a two-hour show dancing,” Amy says. “But before the show we do a run-through of the whole thing from start to finish. We have a half-hour warm up, stretching and all of that, and then after the show I go in ice for about seven minutes, up to my hips, which is so good for recovering so my legs aren’t as sore the next day. When I’m off tour I just try to do a bit exercise. But I do need the down-time on my legs as well.”

“I don’t do too much exercise on the road,” she adds. “I do ab workouts but not too much because I’d be too tired for the show in the evening.”

Born in London, Amy is from an Irish family, with relatives in Ireland, and she began to dance at a very young age. She watched various DVD recordings of shows like Riverdance and went on to dance for her close relations Mandy O’loughlin and Sean Hennigan for the Hennigan O’loughlin school. Getting into the top ten for every major competition she entered, Amy has won six world medals and five southern regional Oireachtas championships to-date.

But she stopped competing in her late teens to focus on her career.

“After I finished my A-Levels, when I was 18, I saw an advertisement on Facebook for Rhythm – they were holding auditions,” Amy explains.

“Me and my friend, quite close in competition, we both went and auditioned. We didn’t realise we’d get anything out of it. It was our first ever one and we were only 18, but about a month after I got an email to say that if I’m available to do Russia, Holland, Germany, then there was a three-month tour. It was amazing. It all happened very quickly. I didn’t really expect it to be like this and then about a year and a half later I got asked to be the lead dancer.”

It’s wonderful to be representing Irish culture around the world, says Amy.

“Everyone is always interested in Irish dancing and the Irish culture,” she states. “On the UK tour we always get such a good response from people and there’s always someone in the audience with Irish family or Irish heritage.”

So, does Amy do any other kind of dance at the moment?

“Well when I was younger I used to do all of them,” she laughs. “Like tap, modern, jazz, ballet and Irish dancing but then it got a bit too much and my Mum was like ‘well, you’ve got to choose one of them’. Luckily I chose Irish dancing and it rewarded me in such a way. But in school I did contemporary dancing, which is quite similar to the contemporary dancing we do in Irish but it’s a bit different as well. It’s all about expression and feeling, but I haven’t really done any other style of dancing.”

“I should really try and get out of my comfort zone,” she adds. “But at the moment I’m tied down with Irish.”

And this style alone offers plenty to explore.

“Irish dancing is very demanding,” says Amy. “It’s very hard on the legs and quick. We have two styles of shoes. We have a soft shoe and a heavy shoe. The soft shoe is very elegant for the lady, a bit like ballet, on quick toes and long legs. With heavy shoes it’s all about what beats you can make with your feet and then fast, quick moves.”

“I’d say it’s very similar tap and ballet.”

Find out more about the show at www.rhythmofthedance.com.

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