By Siobhan Tattan
Rian begins with Liam Ó Maonlaí singing a sean nos song. It provides a quiet and contemplative start to dance company Fabulous Beast’s award winning production. Rian, which means ‘trace’ or ‘mark’ in Irish, is named after Ó Maonlaí’s 2005 solo album. He performs songs in Irish and music on the harp and bodhran on stage. Eight international dancers fuse varying styles of dance with traditional Irish music, composed by Ó Maonlaí. The result is best described as a spontaneous alternative trad session.
The music is the outstanding feature of the performance. Unlike conventional theatre or dance performances where the musicians are hidden. All the musicians are on stage with the dancers. Former Hothouse Flowers member Peter O’ Toole and young rising piper Maitiú Ó Casaide, along with Ó Maonlaí, provide a rich portrait of how far traditional Irish music has evolved. Complex and infectious tunes on tin whistle, concertina, violin, bodhran and harp shape the performance. Eithne Ní Chatháin’s beautiful and haunting ballads lent an authentic yet contemporary tone.
The choreography at first appears simplistic and repetitive, especially against the complex layers of the music. But it develops to reveal an array of movements, based on demonstration and collaboration. And together with the music, the performance creates a joyful sense of community. Where fluidity between dancers and musicians are so entwined that for several parts of the performance they swap roles. When Ó Maonlaí joins in with the dancers, it brought great amusement to the audience who roared with laughter.
Created and choreographed by Michael Keegan Dolan, Rian is a dynamic scaled back performance that relies on song, music and dance. It showcases the best of what contemporary Irish culture can produce out of its rich heritage.