Theatre | A festive Taste of Ireland | Ken Longworth

GREEN AND RED: Brent Pace leads the merry jig that is A Taste of Ireland: The Christmas Spectacular, which will be staged at NEX Theatre.
GREEN AND RED: Brent Pace leads the merry jig that is A Taste of Ireland: The Christmas Spectacular, which will be staged at NEX Theatre.

IN early 2011, a year after Australia’s Brent Pace joined Dublin-based dance company The Rhythms of Ireland, he was appointed its lead male dancer. He was just 19, making him the youngest person to have that significant role.

Pace, who grew up in Melbourne, has a mother who has been an Irish dance teacher since the 1980s. So it’s not surprising that he began learning the skills of the Celtic format when he was just three-years-old and subsequently became a six-times winner of southern hemisphere Irish dance championships. And, after his work in Dublin and touring as a principal dancer with the Rhythms of Ireland and another Irish company, Gaelforce Dance, throughout Europe, his skills have led to his appointment as director of a Queensland-based Irish dance company, Eire Dance Australia, and to leading roles in its touring A Taste of Ireland shows.

He is the principal male dancer in the now-touring A Taste of Ireland – The Christmas Spectacular, which will have a performance in the NEX theatre at the Wests Group Newcastle city venue on Thursday, December 21, at 7.30pm.

The production, which was developed by a Dublin-based team, shows against Irish Christmas backgrounds changes in the relationship between two star-crossed young lovers, when the man, Oison, played by Brent Pace, loses his job as a waterside worker after shipping docks close in Galway Bay, and he goes to Australia in search of work.

The story, set at the beginning of the 20th century, uses Irish Christmas carols and songs, as well as dance, to develop the story, with occasional brief pieces of spoken narration. Background projections colourfully show the various locations.

The show has a cast of 18 people, including four musicians who use Irish instruments including accordions, rhythmic guitars and banjos.

And the dancing, in the original Irish production and this Australian staging, has reportedly had audience members in open-mouthed awe.

Brent, who was part of the show when it was originally staged in Dublin, said the dances included jigs, reels and hornpipes.

There was a very fast jig, known as a slip jig, performed by the female cast members. And the dancers wore hard shoes to perform a double jig. The male dancers performed very eye-catching hornpipes.

The cast members are largely young dancers, with Brent Pace voicing the sentiment that Australia has the best standard, per capita, of Irish dancers outside Ireland. “Several Australians are rated among the world’s top 10,” he said.       

For tickets to A Taste of Ireland ring 4926 6211 or  visit proticket.com.au.