Colin Dunne in Out of Time

Once again the distinguished confab assembled in Dublin last weekend discussing Ireland and economic solutions to aid its recovery drew attention to important place that culture places in that revival.

Two years ago in Farmleigh a similar emphasis engendered the ambitious Imagine Ireland program cultivated by Culture Ireland, the arm of the Irish government to “export” one of its most desirable commodities, it’s art and artists.

Very much on the front lines of that effort in New York has been the Irish Arts Center (IAC) in Manhattan, often in a collaborating mode. In that vein comes a new show by Irish dancer Colin Dunne, who filled the very large shoes of Michael Flatley as the lead male dancer in Riverdance for three years before emIribarking on a solo career.

Called Out of Time, the IAC has linked up with the prestigious Baryshnikov Arts Center with its more harmonious space to present a more contemporary approach to traditional Irish dance from October 19-22 under the aegis of Imagine Ireland.

Dunne, nine times a world champion in Irish dance, quickly filled the large Riverdance vacuum when Flatley left in a creative tiff in London and later in New York’s Radio City Music Hall back in 1995.

Born in Birmingham to parents from Wexford and Monaghan, he paired nicely with the original female lead Jean Butler from New York until they both left to collaborate on the less successful mega-dance show, Dancing on Dangerous Ground in 2000 which was savaged in London before faring a little better in New York, leaving a lot of hard lessons to be learned.

Somewhat humbled and demoralized, Dunne stuck with dancing but sought a fresh approach. He found it at the University of Limerick Irish World Music and Dance Center.

While engaged as a dance teacher in their traditional music program, he was further encouraged to enter as graduate student studying contemporary dance under director Mary Nunan, his first foray outside the world of traditional training. Recruited as a dancer in residence, he earned his masters in contemporary dance in 2002 and has used it in his own solo work and in shows with other creators ever since.

Dunne’s new show takes a more relaxed and subtle approach to traditional Irish dance and footwork, giving more of a glimpse into the physicality and movement inherent in it rather than repetitious rigidity even in the big shows.

Using black and white images from the Come West Along the Road Series produced by RTE of earlier dancers like Paidi Ban O’Brionn, who brought more playfulness into traditional steps, Dunne has captured some of that free expression and enhanced it with his own technically brilliant choreography and interpretation in this performance.

“One of the things that I rediscovered is that there is a sense of joy through movement, and things had become very serious for me and perhaps I was out of touch. When you do something as successful as Riverdance you become part of that machine and when I went solo, I did reconnect and discover a joy that I would have had as a child and a playfulness with it.

“And playfulness is not what we associate with Irish dance which is an obedient form in terms of how you learn it and present it,” Dunne shared with me in phone interview last weekend.

Dunne’s sense of humor is used to good effect in the DVD of the show I viewed that was taped in Dublin’s Project Arts Center a few years ago.
Out of Time makes its New York debut in a limited engagement at the Jerome Robbins Theater in the Baryshnikov Arts Center (450 West 37th Street, New York) October 19-22 for four performances starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at or phone 866-811-4111.