The development of Irish dancing into an entertainment phenomenon is puzzling. It is a rigid form of tap dance in which the dancers perform in unison with movement limited to the legs and feet and few of the high leaps that make dance so textured.
Alan Kenefick, who created and choreographed Footstorm (and dances the lead role) resolves these limitations by establishing a tribal setting for the show. Against such a background the movement of the dancers in strict harmony works perfectly. The setting also frees the dancers to perform sequences of courtship and conflict that show Irish dancing to best effect. The tap dancing aspect, that keeps Irish dancing so tied to the stage, is off-set by the sheer talent of the dancers, particularly Kenefick, who demonstrate some astonishing mid-air heel clicks.
But the talent of the dancers is hindered by ham-fisted storytelling and awful music. Kenefick is at pains to avoid Irish cliché but in an effort to steer clear of Celtic mythology he goes to another extreme with a half-baked science fiction storyline. Dance is a demanding art form requiring the audience to utilise imagination and interpret the movement of the dancers into a narrative. Perhaps not trusting his audience Kenefick spells out the story in subtitles projected onto a screen.
In 2047 a post-apocalytic earth is divided into warring tribes. By using his dancing talents a time traveller is able to generate a mystic storm of energy to rescue a kidnapped queen with whom he has fallen in love. Bad science fiction can be fun if treated with humour and affection (just look at The Rocky Horror Show) but Footstorm takes itself very seriously so that the stale ideas are embarrassing rather than amusing. Science fiction is notoriously hard to achieve visually on stage and there are some dreadful costume designs with everyone looking like they have stepped out of the Mad Max movies.
The images of a devastated landscape projected onto the rear screen are over-familiar and influenced by the covers of progressive rock albums. The show does, however, feature stunning effects with laser images that would not disgrace a Pink Floyd concert. Unfortunately the music is also rock influenced with ear-splitting electronic pulses and beats lacking both lyricism and variety. It is also so loud that it overwhelms the footwork of the dancers and deprives the audience of the thunderous tap dancing effect that is a prominent feature of Irish dancing.
Prodijig is a company with tremendously talented dancers but the efforts to make Footstorm unique are hampered by mediocre music and a confused story.