DiddelengMichael Donnellan's "Danceperados" am "opderschmelz"

© Gary CollinsDen 3. Dezember kënne sech d'Fans vum ireschen Danz am Centre Culturel "opderschmelz" zu Diddeleng d'Virféierung "Danceperado", déi vum Michael Donnellan an Zeen gesat gouf, ukucken.

Den ireschen Danz läit dem Michael Donnellan am Blutt. Säi Grousspapp Richard King war regionale Champion vu Leinster, seng Mamm souguer hat den All-Ireland-Championship-Titel gewonnen. De Michael huet d'Traditioun nach méi wäit bruecht, andeem hien 1988 am Alter vun 12 Joer World Champion gouf. Dozou muss ee soen, datt weltwäit ronn 80 Milliounen Leit liewen, déi iresch Wuerzelen hunn a gären op Traditiounen, wéi den ireschen Danz, zeréckgräifen. Esou ass et net verwonnerlech, datt awer vill Leit dëse Sport bedreiwen, respektiv datt et och vill Profien an deem Beräich gëtt. Am Alter vun 21 Joer konnt de Michael Donnellan dann de Weltmeeschter-Titel eng zweete Kéier gewannen.

Obwuel hien domadder ee vun de beschten ireschen Dänzer op der Welt war, koum hien éischter duerch Zoufall bei dëse Sport. Seng Mamm sollt fir eng Frëndin asprangen, fir en Danzcours ze halen. Well si awer kee Babysitter konnt fannen, huet si de klenge Michael, dee knapp goe konnt, matgeholl. De jonke Michael hat vill Spaass dobäi a war e richtegt Talent, obwuel seng Mamm zu deem Moment nach net konnt virausgesinn, datt hie spéider déi gréissten Titelen an hirem Sport géif gewannen. Nach bal besser, wéi d'Titelen ze gewannen, ass awer haut, datt hie fir eppes, wat hien esou gäre mécht, net muss bezuelen, mä esouguer dofir bezuelt gëtt.

Elo mat "Danceperados" op Tour ze goen, ass e ganz speziellt Gefill, grad well vill nei Choreographien dra sinn. An dëse Stéck gëtt d'Geschicht vun enger illegaler Whisky-Brennerei iwwer Musik, Gesang an Danz erzielt. Alles dovunner gëtt zu 100 Prozent live op der Bühn produzéiert, datt während der ganzer Show. Dofir si Museker a Sänger mat dobäi, déi selwer scho verschidde Präisser gewonnen hunn. Ënnert hinnen da souguer d'Musek-Group Beoga, déi fir e Grammy nominéiert a mam Sänger Ed Sheeran op Tour waren.

Als Choreograph vun dëser Show ass de Michael Donnellan besonnesch houfreg dorobber. Datt sech a sengem Liewe bal alles ronderëm d'Danzen dréint, gesäit een och dorunner, datt hien an tëscht schonn Danzschoulen, wou een den ireschen Danz ka léieren, opgemaach huet, datt an Irland an an Däitschland. Ma och hie léiert, trotz senger grousser Erfarung, ëmmer nach eppes bäi. Well fir eng Kéier perfekt ze ginn, muss een och op konstruktive Feedback lauschteren. "Dee Moment, wou s de mengs, datt s de alles weess, kann s de genau esou gutt d'Bengele bei d'Tromm geheien", esou de Michael Donnellan am Interview.

LINK: Méi Informatiouenen iwwer Danceperados of Ireland op opderschmelz.lu

Hei de ganzen Interview op Englesch:

'The apple never falls far from the tree', a wise woman once said. For Michael Donnellan, choreographer of Irish dance troupe Danceperados of Ireland, and regarded as one of the greatest Irish dancers of his generation, this rings as true as the old adage 'hard work pays off'. 

Long before Donnellan conquered the world, in sold-out performances of global dance phenomena, Riverdance, and Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance, Irish step dancing, as an art-form, was a far cry from the dazzling, high-energy, lucrative business it has become today. One thing which was sure, however, was that Irish dancing was firmly embedded in Michael's bloodline. His great-grandfather, Richard King, was an (aptly named) Leinster provincial champion, and setting the bar even higher was Donnellan's mother, Carrie, who took home a highly-coveted All-Ireland championship title, in her day. 

Michael took the family tradition (literally) one step further, in 1988, when he was crowned world champion at the tender age of 12. For anyone struggling with the concept of an Irish dancing world championship, consider that an estimated 80 million people worldwide claim some Irish descent, 36 million of whom reside in the United States alone. As such, the heritage and traditions of 'the old country' have been passed on from generation to generation and form an integral part of not just the competitive Irish dancing scene but the professional world also. Qualification for the world championships is highly sought after and proves an arduous process. First, there are local qualifiers, followed by provincial and national competitions and only the top 6 dancers, in their respective category, get to represent their country at the annual world championships. Relentless, Michael would go on to win his second world title, at aged 21, representing the same school of dancing (Scoil Uí Ruairc) that he had joined at age 5. 

He describes a, somewhat, haphazard start to his formative dance training when, one day, his mother was asked by a friend to help teach a dance class. As she couldn't get a babysitter, she brought young Michael along with her, when he was still a toddler. By all accounts, he hit the floor and seemed to enjoy it. However, despite his apparent enthusiasm, his mother admits that she could never have foreseen what was to come, in terms of Michael's later success. While it was clear the child had an understanding of music and rhythm, it seems it did take the world-champion-to-be a while to master 'his one-two-threes' (Irish dance beginner's step) as they are affectionately known in Ireland. He stuck with it however, and to this day, he has not lost that youthful flair, admitting he finds it hard to contain himself, once he "has the shoes on" and hears the opening beats of a piece of traditional Irish music. 

It is these earlier years of dogged practice and commitment which Michael refers to as his "graft". Asked what it feels like to win a world title, he is modest yet proud, offering that it is an "unbelievable feeling" to know that the years of hard work and dedication have paid off. Indeed, his second win appears to have meant even more to him for different reasons. Conscious that the end of his competitive career was only just the beginning of his professional one, he was also acutely aware that this was not a position his mother nor his great-grandfather would have found themselves in, and for that, he considered himself extremely lucky. 

In the early years of his career, he never really had a master plan. He cannot remember a time when he couldn't dance and so the irony of not only getting paid to do something that he previously had to pay for, but also getting paid for doing something that he loved, was not lost on him. Remembering the thrill of first performing in some of the world's most iconic venues, he says, "you don't think of the money or any of that. You just think, I don't want this to end!" 

Still bursting with a clear passion and love for Irish dance, Donnellan is excited to return to the Grand Duchy with Danceperados' latest production, Whiskey, you're the Devil!, and even plans to showcase some brand new choreography during the Luxembourg performance. The group's latest offering tells the novel story of illegal Irish whiskey-making, through the medium of music, song and dance.

With years of experience as a professional dancer under his belt, the eternally upbeat Clare-man had already taken on the role of choreographer and director while still in his twenties, touring the world again with such shows as Magic of the Dance and Rhythms of Ireland. He has also performed with the Fusion Fighters dance troupe over the years. Now at 42, and continuing in his role as choreographer, he thrives on challenging himself and tapping into (no pun intended) his creative side. Since new rhythms, ideas and beats often come to him at the most inopportune moments, like "when he's unloading the dishwasher", he is sometimes forced to stop what he's doing, get his phone and record his foot moves before they are forgotten. He sees the dynamic between choreographer and dancer as being akin to player - manager, always conscious that there is an "invisible white line" which cannot be crossed, requiring both trust and detachment. 

Together with musical director, Eimhin Liddy, and artistic director, Petr Pandula, Donnellan was well aware that the classic Irish dance-show themes of 'good versus evil', accompanied by high-tech, highly-staged productions, had been "done to death". Differentiating their shows, by adopting a fresh and more authentic approach to a tried-and tested formula, was their aim. Essentially, they wanted the focus of their shows to be on Irish dance, itself. With Michael continuously developing ever-more-intricate dance steps, it was crucial to ensure these could be executed with the precision, people had come to expect from a show, such as theirs. Danceperados boasts a plethora of All-Ireland and world championship titles among the troupe, ensuring that this goal is met on stage, every night.

Keen to take their audience on an exploratory journey of some of the more intimate elements of Ireland's history and customs, the group have been doing just that, touring globally, on and off, since 2014. Previous show themes have drawn inspiration from Irish Christmas traditions, as well as the story of Ireland's 'traveller' (nomadic) community, known for their own unique musical customs and story-telling traditions. Various attempts to assimilate the traveller community into 'mainstream' Irish society over the years have been the source of some controversy in the country, but this didn't deter Danceperados from their mission. In-keeping with the desire for inclusiveness, which has come to represent an ever-more modern and open Ireland, when the traveller community were officially awarded ethnic minority status under the Irish constitution, Danceperados were the first group to mark this development by way of an artistic homage. 

Donnellan is also adamant to assure audiences that all music, song and dance performed each night is 100 per cent live, for the entire duration of the show. This contrasts with some other Irish dance show productions which embellish live shows with prerecorded taps, a technique known as 'canning'. The dance troupe are accompanied by award-winning, top-class musicians and singers, in their own right. The grammy-nominated, musical group Beoga, (meaning 'lively' or 'spirited' in the Irish language) had previously been the group's resident band, before they joined Ed Sheeran on tour. © Gregor Eisenhuth

As Donnellan reflects on his career to date, the statistics and highlights are quite staggering. He vividly recalls "getting the call" confirming that he had been signed to perform with Riverdance, while still studying for his Leaving Cert (an Irish state exam similar to the BAC). A  subsequent offer saw him take to the West End stage however, for the hotly-anticipated opening night of Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley's legendary come-back performance, after his untimely and much-publicized 'parting of ways' from the original Riverdance show. Donnellan would later perform the lead role in Lord of the Dance, touring with the show for a year before returning to Riverdance. He subsequently performed 912 Riverdance shows across the world, over the course of three years. Eight to ten shows a week was the norm, not counting rehearsals, and he admits that schedules like this can take their toll on the body. Like other professional dancers, he has undergone the same type of ankle operation, to strengthen his ligaments, as many professional footballers frequently get done, such is the toll on his legs. He recalls another career highlight, during a show in Taipei, when the audience got so into the atmosphere, they got up from their seats and started dancing in the aisle, during the performance!

In tandem with the show, Donnellan also runs his own dance schools, in Ireland and in Germany, catering for all age groups and all levels. While he is clearly very proud of all his students, what makes him particularly happy is the absence of bullying of young male dancers, something he had some experience with, in his youth. In contrast, he was heartened to hear recently that one of his students actually received a standing ovation from his peers, upon hearing the news of a major competition win. And so, the circle of life continues and Michael is in no danger of slowing down any time soon. Reflecting again on the need to constantly strive for excellence, learn from past experiences and embrace constructive feedback, he says "the minute you think you know it all, you might as well throw your hat at it!"

Danceperados of Ireland will perform at the Centre Culturel Régional, Dudelange Opderschmelz on 3 February 2018.

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