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Q&A with Kieran Cavanagh – Producer of Rhythm of the Dance

Rhythm of the Dance is the Irish dance spectacular set to delight all those with a passion for traditional Celtic dance and music, combined with intense rhythms and awe-inspiring moves. Check out our question and answer session with the show’s producer Kieran Cavanagh to find out more!

Q. So Kieran tell me how it all started for Rhythm of the Dance
A. Back in 1998 I get a call from the Head of Music Cathal McCabe at Irelands National TV & Radio channels RTE asking me to put a dance troupe together to accompany the National Concert Orchestra to America for a 3 week tour. I said yes and produced the dance troupe to tour America with the Orchestra. Cathal titles us the National Dance Company of Ireland as RTE’s radio & TV channels were state owned and it would be the State would pay us for the tour. The tour was such a success that we then toured Scandinavia in March & April of 1999 without the Orchestra as it was much too expensive to move the National concert orchestra around and now here we are all those years later still touring the world for 40 weeks of the year every year.

Q. Fantastic, so you have now played in 44 countries I believe across the four continents, tell me of your experiences around the world and the highlights over the last decade or more.
A. It never ceases to amaze me how many countries we have actually toured and some of them are non English speaking territories like Russia, where we generally start a tour as far over as Siberia and then work our way back to Moscow over a 5 week period of one nighters going from town to town overnight by train, it’s pretty amazing and the people come out and fill the theatres and sometimes bring Celtic song books and literature with them to show to us and we have sometimes even played music with them in our hotel and they cannot communicate with us, only through the music, it’s fantastic to see this happen, how music can bring different nations and cultures together. One of the biggest highlights for me was when we were invited to perform in Shenchen City in China for the Millennium New Years Eve TV special. We had an eight minute slot and the show was broadcast to 1 Billion viewers in Asia on CCTV, can you imagine being able to reach that big of an audience in one TV show, it was amazing and I was emotional when it happened, it was our finest hour for sure and we now tour China every year.

Q. Now you have also toured places like Taiwan, Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, Egypt, my word the list goes on and on, it is truly an International show
A. We cover a lot of Territories around the world annually and we try to create and open new markets all the time.

Q. OK, now I have seen the show and I cannot believe the pace of your dancers , how do they keep that up for two hours.
A. Well it’s pretty frantic to watch alright, however our cast have been dancing and trained since they were four years old and they are incredibly fit and have to take care of their body and their diet. But each day at the Venue we have a dance captain in the show who will have a drill with the dancers prior to the performance, where they get to warm up their muscles and exercise and the rest come natural to them.

Q. Now you also have a great band in the show and I didn’t even know what some of the instruments were, can you explain what instruments you have in the band.
A. OK, well first all our musicians play live on stage and that to me in very important and I have always prided myself on continuing to carry a big band around the world to play our music live to the audience. We have an array of instruments, like the Uileann pipes, which is a wonderful instrument, which is played by the musician using one arm to pump wind into the pipes via a bellows, then they must use both hands and fingers to play the notes, so I always admire someone who can master the pipes, we also carry a Harpist, Flautist, Fiddle, Accordion, Bodhran drum, Whistles, & Banjo, so there is a vast array of musical instruments in the show and it is not unusual for one musician to play several instruments.

Q.Great, now you also have 3 Tenors and I have to say they were great and very entertaining.
A. About 4 years ago now, I introduced the Tenors into the show, before that we had a boy & girl vocalist and because we play repeat territories sometimes annually I always keep the show fresh and when I introduced the Tenors to the show, they were an instant hit and they still wow the audiences every night and of course they give our dancers a much needed breather and time to change costumes, as we have about 25 costume changes in the show which is a lot, especially sometimes when the dancers have literally just seconds to make that change to a new costume or it could be switching shoes from the hard shoe, which makes the loud tap on the stage to the soft shoe which is for what we call light pieces of dance.

Q. So what can the audience expect when they go to see Rhythm of the Dance and what separates you from Riverdance, how is your show different.
A. The audience can expect to visit Ireland for two hours, they will leave the theatre feeling that they have been on a trip around Ireland and they will have a strong impression of our culture and our music. Irish music is loved all over the world as is our Dance now. I think what sets Rhythm of the Dance apart from Riverdance is that we tend to be a bit more traditional and purist and we rely less on the technical support than other shows do, like pyro’s & large lighting rigs, although we do carry quite a lavish production

Q. Where do you recruit your dancers, does the National Dance Company have their own dance academy or do you advertise to find dancers?
A. Our choreographer runs our dance studio and our school, we have children as young as four years old enrolling and next year we are excited to invite children and young teenagers from Russia to Ireland for a week to learn Irish dance at our academy . We are also planning to open five dance academy’s in Russia and we are in the planning stages at this moment and we are very excited about that. We have a big following in Russia and Rhythm of the Dance is a household name there, so we were approached by our agency in Moscow to open several academies there.

Q. Wonderful, that unbelievable! So what does the future hold for Rhythm of the Dance
A. Irish dance continues to be hugely popular all over the world and I believe that Rhythm of the Dance will be around for many years to come, once we remain true to the art form and keep making the show interesting and entertaining for the audience, that’s the most important factor. I would hope we have many good years of touring ahead of us.

Q. Finally Kieran Cavanagh, its been great talking to you and I love your show, do you have a final word for our readers
A. Come and enjoy a two hour Irish experience and as we say in our commercials, enjoy the PASSION, THE ENERGY, THE RHYTHM..The Rhythm of the Dance.

Rhythm of the Dance comes to the Grand Theatre, Blackpool from Tuesday 9 to Wednesday 10 September 2014.

To book tickets visit or call our box office on 01253 201290