A new generation of Irish rock and dance is coming to Penn State on its spring portion of a 76-city tour. The critically acclaimed Irish dance/rock concert, “Rockin’ Road to Dublin,” will give a performance at Eisenhower Auditorium on March 23.
A fusion of rock and Irish, “Rockin’ Road” thrusts Irish dance back into the spotlight.
“It’s truly the music that gets the audience on their feet,” said Scott Doherty, who is the co-creator, co-executive producer, choreographer and lead dancer.
Doherty is the 2009 Men’s World Champion of Irish Dance. He made his professional debut in 2005 with the North American tour of Riverdance. Since then he has toured the world with both Riverdance and Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance.”
Originally from Boston, Doherty started dancing when he was six. Ultimately, he didn’t really have much of a choice.
“My parents made me, so that’s really how I got into all this,” he said. “Lucky for me, I ended up falling in love with Irish dancing, and I’ve been dancing all my life.”
In 2007, Doherty was performing at Busch Gardens when he met co-creator Chris Smith. The two quickly became friends, and soon after became roommates.
“We started talking about shows, what we liked to see and do, and we realized that we had the same ideas,” Doherty said. “It kind of snowballed into this concept of a whole Irish dancing rock ’n’ roll show, because I always wanted to make a show that was cool. And Chris had all these dreams of making this big spectacle of a show. After a year, we realized that we had the whole show planned without knowing it.”
Doherty said he basically called up everyone he knew would be not only the best dancers, but also the best performers. His first call was to their female lead, Ashley Smith, a three-time World Irish Step Dancing Champion.
“I wanted to pick the best of the best,” he said. “She’s probably the best dancer I’ve ever performed with. It’s exciting to not only dance with the best, but we really are one big family.”
Growing up, Smith had a lot of the arts in him, as both of his parents acted, sang and played the piano. Now, he gets to perform in a show that he enjoys, do costumes, set and lighting — and all the things that he grew up doing on the side.
“ ‘Rockin’ Road’ is all that put together — a culmination of everything that has happened in my life,” he said. “It kind of led me in this direction for the show.”
The show features 14 dancers, a live eight-piece rock band and two singers. Doherty said it’s non-stop high energy, without a dull moment throughout.
“That’s one of the best compliments that we’ve had from audiences — that they don’t even have time to sit and look at the program because it’s such an exciting show all the time,” Doherty said. “The band is unbelievable, and the singers are just incredible. It’s everything that people expect from an Irish dance show, but updated and newer and cool. It’s not boring that’s for sure.”
The show features a number of traditional Irish tunes and rock ’n’ roll classics that are turned into Irish dancing songs, including “Anyway You Want It,” “Back in Black,” “Eye of the Tiger” and “Baba O’Riley.”
“Everyone loves Celtic rock music in general, and what we’re trying to do is make it more relevant and make it cooler by adding in the rock ’n’ roll,” Smith said. “It’s a nice balance between rock and Irish traditional. That’s another reason why people of all genres like it. We’re excited because we feel like we’re giving people the next step of what they want.”
What also makes “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” exciting for Smith and Doherty is that they’ve designed the show to be a night that any age can enjoy.
“We’re proud to see that every night, there’s little kids and there’s grandparents,” Doherty said. “Some people come, and dance is not really their thing, but they love the music or the singing or maybe they come for the light show. There’s something for everybody.”
“They come into the show not knowing what to expect — and we blow them out of the water,” Smith said. “When they leave, they are just energetic and excited. We give them something that they’re not expecting, which is all we’re trying to do. It’s all just a lot of fun, energy and excitement — a lot of good times.”
IF YOU GO
- What: “Rockin’ Road to Dublin”
- When: 7:30 p.m. March 23
- Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
- Info: www.cpa.psu.edu