Peta Anderson: topping Irish with tap

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What do you do when you have a special combination of talents but can’t find the show that is the right fit for you? You create your own, of course! That’s what Peta Anderson, who is a champion Irish dancer, a tap dancer AND a master of the “the triple threat’ of music theatre, has done, and turned herself into a producer and choreographer of an internationally successful show as a result.

 The show is Eireborne, which showcases an outstanding ensemble of 15 Irish dancers alongside a live six-piece band with two lead vocalists. Described as a “rock show”, Eireborne combines the hit songs of popular Irish bands like the Cranberries, U2 and Snowpatrol with the most virtuosic dancing Anderson could dream up. “I wanted to feature Irish dancers in a way we haven't been seen before,” she says. The dancers include Liam Costello, the youngest Australian to win the Irish Dance World Championship (and he won it twice!). 

Eireborne has allowed me to push the boundaries as the choreographer and revolutionise Irish dance, showing just how versatile and mesmerising Irish dance can be.”

Anderson is one of Australia’s leading tap dancers. She has been involved in numerous tap festivals both here and overseas and is the face of Capezio’s Tapsonic shoe brand. She is also a prizewinning Irish dancer, rising to the top of the Australian National Irish Dancing Championships and performing in the iconic Riverdance between 2011 and 2015 (one of few who joined by invitation, rather than audition). With that show she "went on a crazy journey" all over the world. 

By the time the Riverdance phenomenon faded, she was in her late 20s and back in Sydney looking to restart her career. “I thought I’d love to bring my other styles to Irish dance and make it a bit more commercial and give it that edge, and appeal to young kids. So I thought let’s create something that’s a rock-n-roll Irish show, and five years later here we are.”

Anderson has joined up with Nigel Turner Carroll, of Tap Pack fame, as director, and fellow Riverdance performer and 9 x Australian Open Irish Dance Champion Maryanne Fogarty-Morello. Eireborne premiered in 2016 in Sydney and since then has toured through parts of Australia as well as Zurich and Hamburg, though it has not been seen in Victoria, SA or WA. It was supposed to tour Australia last year, but was postponed, and is now being relaunched thanks to the Australian Government’s Rise Fund for artists.

Irish and tap share many characteristics, and yet “they are like chalk and cheese”, Anderson says. Choreographing the show has given her the chance to explore the potential of combining both. While the two styles are similarly percussive, the shoes and technique are different.

“Technically even the way your ankle is used is completely different. Tap is parallel and the ankle is isolated, you don’t use that joint, and your knees are overcrossed in a turn out position, a bit like 5th position in ballet. And you are using your whole leg and your ankle is flicking around."

Tap shoes are heavier, creating different sounds to Irish dancing shoes, which have bigger heels and are tight fitting and flexible and allow the dancer to go “en pointe”. “It’s easier to do tap technique in the Irish shoes, but harder to do Irish technique in the tap shoes.”

Anderson first took up Irish dancing at the age of 10 when it was introduced to her dance school. She simultaneously partipated in the Irish Dancing competition circuit while studying at the McDonald College in Sydney, before moving to Melbourne to undertake a diploma of Performing Arts at Dance World Studios. She moved to the US to take up a principal role in the show Noctu, which then went on to perform in New York on Broadway. From there she joined Riverdance and her career took flight. She is currently performing with Drummer Queens, an all-female show which she also choreographed. 

 With Eireborne Anderson hopes to inspire a new generation to take up Irish dance. “For me its awesome getting tap and Irish dance out there in these shows so little kids want to start these styles again,” she says.

'Eireborne' opens on August 28 at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne and then tours nationally. To book, go here.

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