It’s a nice coincidence that on the same night Riverdance makes its “farewell” visit to the Hammersmith Apollo, its former star Colin Dunne has a solo show at the Barbican. But unlike the high-revving Riverdance, Dunne is on much more reflective form. Indeed, he’s pensive to the point of elegiac.
His pared-back 60-minute recital is misleadingly titled, as “out of time” can mean being out of time with the music, which Dunne never was. Indeed, the champion Irish dancer was and is extraordinarily able, with nimble footwork and pin-point timing. However, it can also mean being out of sync, which Dunne seems to be, both with the Irish dance “phenomena”, and the ruthless marketing of this folk heritage.
Dunne’s solo performances are combined with vintage film of Irish dance. These revelatory clips, projected onto a white cube that Dunne moves around like a stage hand, are from the 1930s to 1970s and show Irish dancing much lovelier than we see today.
There’s a sweet girl of perhaps 17, with a softly flowing dress, and older men, hoofing in their tweeds. The excerpt from Blue Peter is sharply poignant, with a 10-year-old Dunne just a Brummie kid. “Not really,” he smiles when asked if the steps are difficult.
Dunne still makes it look easy, slowing the moves so we can see how the taps, skips and flicks are put together. He starts in bare feet dancing a hornpipe then speeds up to recognisable Irish steps, before cleverly distorting and deconstructing them. Dunne also talks us through the process of dancing and, indirectly, his career, parts of which you suspect were bleak.Yet however much he rails against it, Irish dancing claims him. It’s what he’s good at and what he knows, and when he moves he still has considerable physical charisma, easily on a par with the tap virtuoso Savion Glover. The difference is that Glover retains an innocent affection for his art form, whereas Dunne seems to mourn the loss of his…
Review by Sarah Frater