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  • Writer's pictureYumi La Blanca

Flamenco Inspiration from Ireland - Celebrating St Patrick’s Day

While lockdown lacks excitement, we should look forward to St Patrick’s Day falling on 17th March, because, at least in London, the Irish festivity lasts for a week from 13th to 20th March:

St Patrick’s Day Celebrations 2021

While there seem to be several digital events going on, I’d like to add a spice of flamenco in the celebration, which we can also enjoy online.

Flamenco in Ireland - Riverdance

As a flamenco enthusiast, most of us would associate Irish culture with the theatrical production of Riverdance and its involvement of flamenco dancers, María Pagés especially.

Riverdance gained its fame initially as an interval act of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Ireland, which immediately stole the heart of the wide audience. Transforming the traditional perception of Irish dance, it expanded the scale as a huge entertainment show to tour around the world.

Riverdance - 1994 Eurovision Song Contest

The flamenco dancer María Pagés joined the troupe in 1995. Instead of integrating Basque dancing that is also from Spain and culturally closer to Irish dancing, they chose flamenco instead probably for a visual impact. In the act entitled ‘Heartbeat’, we can see the contrast; while the Irish footsteps are rather bouncing, flamenco dancing is more grounded. Despite the difference, both are equally thrilling:

Heartbeat, Riverdance

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Riverdance, they made a short documentary film of the nerve-wracking process of deciding who should be the female lead. The film is still available on BBC iPlayer and will be a good appetizer for the whole anniversary show premiered exactly on St Patrick’s Day, in which Rocio Montoya fulfils the part of flamenco:

True North Series 13: Born to Riverdance

Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show, premiering at 7.30pm on 17th March (£17.50 for the UK)

Flamenco from Ireland - John Walsh

If you’d like to spend the week rather calmly, I can recommend listening to the Irish-born flamenco guitarist, John Walsh.

After being classically trained at Trinity College London, he has dedicated himself to flamenco guitar, playing in Ireland, the UK as well as Spain. In 2015, he was invited to perform at the 2nd Paco de Lucía Guitar Festival in Algeciras, the hometown of the maestro, which marked a great success. His flamenco soundscape is lyrical, elegant and stylish, showcasing a good balance of gentleness and passion.

He released his debut album ‘Irlandalcía’ in December 2020, taking advantage of the time created by lockdown. As the first flamenco album made by an Irish musician, the term ‘Irlandalcía’ is a happy cultural marriage of his birthplace Irlanda (Ireland) and his musical home Andalucía. The beautiful title tune is featured in his own Youtube channel, and the entire album is available from his website. His music can not only decorate the St Patrick’s Day celebration but also be our gentle companion during the continued lockdown and afterwards.

Let’s make this year’s St Patrick's Day week as culturally exciting and inspiring.

Irlandalcía (Zapateado) by John Walsh

John Walsh


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