The Healthy Planet is Proud to Present Exclusive Interview Info on Two Of This Month’s Major Performances

By Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky
Healthy Planet Arts Editor

Irish music need not be limited to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Celtic Thunder is aptly named as an Irish vocal group that has taken the world by storm. They rumble into St. Louis for a one-night performance on November 8 at The Fabulous Fox Theatre. These six singers – or “lads,” as they refer to themselves — deliver a mix of classic Irish music, such as “Dulaman” and the love song “Maid of Culmore,” to solo performances, showcasing each member’s talents. This performance, entitled “Voyage,” depicts the journey of musical development that Neil Byrne, Emmet Cahill, George Donaldson, Keith Harkin, Colm Keegan and Ryan Kelly have each undertaken in the past four years,” said their publicist. One number, “Isle of Hope,” particularly recalls the voyage of the many immigrants to America who entered through Ellis Island.

This is the first show by Celtic Thunber where all of the vocalists also play various instruments during the performance. In typical Celtic Thunder style, each singer is featured in solo pieces, as well as in blended performances of the entire group. The “lads,” well-known to PBS-television audiences, present a truly delightful family-friendly performance. St. Louis is just a one-night show on the sweeping 63-city tour. Sample a preview of the group at www.celticthunder.ie.

I first saw Pilobolus a few years ago, intrigued by their advertising image depicting the most flexible swarm of dancers I’d ever seen. The picture did little to prepare me for a performance that defied description. If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” I would need countless tomes to describe the performance I saw that night. Founded in 1971, Pilobolus has amazed millions in 64 countries around the globe. And they’re back at the Touhill on November 9-10, presented by Dance St. Louis — so I’m going back, too!

Pilobolus has long been regarded as one of the most innovative contemporary dance companies in the world today, and of choreographers and dancer-athletes who performing mesmerizing moves thanks to incredible strength and physiques. In fact, the company actually teaches a class.

It was my distinct pleasure to have an exclusive interview with Nile H. Russell, Co-Dance Captain and Dancer, now in his fourth season with Pilobolus. By his own admission, Nile is has both a strong work ethic, and loves being the life of the party. “Pilobolus is very different from the dance community at large, “ Niles began. “ The partnering is extraordinary and complex, the choreography is rigorous, and the touring schedule is full. So, compared to the companies I had worked with during my time in New York, Pilobolus is a very challenging company, but highly rewarding.”

In response to my questions regarding the physical fitness level required to perform, Niles responded, “When we’re home, we rehearse 40 hours per week. On the road, we do anywhere from 90 to 130 performances a year. When I’m home, I love to go hiking, and I go jogging once in a blue moon. For the most part, I try to eat right and do more walking than driving. With my schedule, I barely have the energy for anything else, besides reading and Netflix!”

Laughing about how many calories must be burned during rehearsals and performances, Niles said, “In terms of diet, I like fruit smoothies, greens here and there, and plenty of home baked goods. Luckily, dancing keeps everything else at bay.”

Niles continued, “Pilobolus is a group of individuals creating, playing, growing, challenging, laughing, and discovering new ways to not just dance, but to also understand all the possibilities of the human form.”

The New Yorker states, “Pilobolus shakes us out of admiration into awe.” The Washington Post says, “Pilobolus embodies a large part of what the best in contemporary dance is all about: discovery. Making something new with the same standard body parts the rest of us have.” The Healthy Planet gushes, “Just go see Pilobolus. You’ll never think of dance in the same way again!”