Irish dancing is a step dance, Colin Dunne explains at the start of Concert; the rhythm comes not just from what you do, but what you don’t do. It’s in the space between the steps. Since leaving the Riverdance juggernaut, Dunne has taken a stripped-back approach to Irish dancing, exposing its deeply soulful side. So it feels like a perfect fit that for this one-man show Dunne has matched himself against the music of the legendary Irish fiddle player Tommy Potts – a man, like Dunne, with a deep love for the form he practised, but a desire to break it apart.
Potts’s music was not made to be danced to – Dunne describes it as slippery, fragile, eccentric, sometimes harsh. But he takes the one recording Potts made, the 1972 album The Liffey Banks, and some snatches of recorded interviews with Potts, and looks to find a way inside the music.
Dunne dances barefoot, turning those emphatic Irish dancing steps into a delicate patter of feet kissing the floor. He plays with a vinyl recording on a turntable that stops and starts with his movements until it seems the dance is prompting the music instead of the other way round. He sets up a microphone to catch the sounds of his steps and echo them, then dances to the sound of his recorded steps. And when he dons his dancing shoes and faces the challenge of Potts’s music square on, the wild, yearning, melancholic , earthy, elemental side of the music and Dunne’s extraordinary dancing is there for all to see.
Concert is a playful piece, carefully constructed to look casual and a bit rough around the edges. Dunne has a thoughtful, sometimes brooding stage presence, but he can be lighthearted, too – making jokes, setting up a banter between himself and Potts’s recorded voice. What you come away with, though, is a deeper sense of the communion between a dancer and their music – and a thrilling insight into what Irish dancing can be without the razzamatazz.