I was very fortunate to catch up with Raymond Sweeney, Creative Director, Producer and Lead Dancer from Titanicdance earlier today. Raymond hails from Donegal and has toured the world with the world famous Lord of the Dance. He spent 15 years with Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance and is now heading up his own show, Titanicdance.
Launched in Belfast last year, Titanicdance is returning for 3 shows to The Millennium Forum Derry next weekend and it promises to be mindblowing in every sense of the word.
I was curious to know how Raymond first got into dancing. He told me 'my sisters were all going to Irish dancing classes and I began picking up steps from them. It was only a matter of time before I joined the class'. He said that at first he was attracted to the dancing alone and then as he matured the girls there also attracted him!!
After auditioning for Lord of the Dance over a number of weeks, which he said 'resembled the X Factor minus the public voting and viewing' he then set out to tour the world with Lord of the Dance. 'My first show was with Michael Flatley at London's Hyde Park'. From there it was on to the United States and now he is back in Ireland and ready to showcase his Titanicdance to a home audience once more, and then it is hoped the show will go global.
Raymond said that this experience is 'every dancers dream. I never thought I'd do this but with the right team around me it has come together'.
Just talking to Raymond Sweeney, I can tell that he is super excited about this production. His passion shines through in his body language and his talk. 'I see potential in this and am really excited about it'. If rehearsals are anything to go by, I'm really excited about seeing it on stage next Thursday night.
Surely with such a history of world class touring behind him, his defining moment must be Las Vegas or New York. But no, Raymond admits that one such moment was last year 'on the Oddessy stage in Belfast. Dancing lead in my own show was a very proud moment and especially as it was to an Irish audience. This audience is one of the toughest to perform for. Dancing is so prominent in Northern Ireland and there are so many great dancers out there.' He is so respectful of the Northern Ireland dancing that he has some local dancers in the show.
Raymond Sweeney is Donegal to the end. He speaks fondly of his home townland of Drumkeen and how many of the ideas for the show were put together in a prefab near his home there. 'We gathered there and played around with a number of ideas and many of them came together in that prefab in Drumkeen'.
This farming chap has come a long way from running after sheep, to dancing on a world stage and now to headlining his very own show in it's infancy.
'Titanicdance tells a heart-gripping love story as the great ship makes its maiden voyage across the Atlantic. This epic tale is enacted by a cast of 24 of the world's top Irish dancers and 6 of Ireland's leading musicians, making Titanicdance an unmissable spectacular of live music, song and dance, along with amazing costumes and set design. Visually Titanicdance is something you'll never have experienced before. The original choreography is sure to set your feet tapping and emotions running high as the story unfolds - you're guaranteed to want more ad more.'
Raymond assures me that this show is not only entertainment but gives a real insight into the reality of the Titanic experience. 'Throughout the show, the audience can follow facts on the large screens.'
For more details and booking information contact The Millennium Forum, Derry. If it's one show you see this February this might be just the one to set you talking for many months to come.