HAVING choreographed Cork Opera House’s pantomime, Aladdin, the next major gig for Ciarán Connolly is working as assistant choreographer for the Spice Girls’ Reunion Tour.
The tour, minus Posh Spice, kicks off at Croke Park on May 24 followed by concerts all over the UK.
Ciarán, 36, is unfazed about working with big names. He has worked on One Direction shows, partnered Baby Spice for a dance sequence as part of the entertainment at the London Olympics, has worked on Ireland’s Got Talent and The Voice of Ireland and has danced on The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and the Royal Variety Show. He has also worked on Robbie Williams’ and Katherine Jenkins’ tours.
As part of a guest act for Strictly Come Dancing, London-based, Dublin-born Ciarán says: “It’s a huge show which visually is very strong. I think they have nailed it with their contestants. There’s always a great array of different characters. It has really kicked off in the last few years.”
Ireland’s version of Strictly is Dancing With the Stars (DWTS).
“Shinawil (the TV production company that makes DWTS) do a great job. It’s fantastic,” adds Ciarán, who is also a spin instructor.
“That’s my latest thing. When I finish dancing, I feel like I need another kick. I love the buzz so I trained in spinning which is done on a bike. I teach it early in the morning (at 6.30am) in a gym.”
From Marino, Ciarán has been living in London for 16 years.
“I love it. I moved over here when I was 20 to further my career in dance. Back home, there was a limited amount of work you could do. I started with the Billie Barry Stage School in Dublin.”
Did he suffer bullying because of his interest in dance?
“There was always a little bit. I did the Late Late Toy Show quite a lot. It was exciting but I’d have to go into school on Monday where there would be heckling. Some of my friends were bullied really badly. I was lucky because my two older brothers kind of protected me.”
As a child, dancing was “an escape” for Ciarán.
“I met my best friends at Billie Barrys, which is like a school where you form friendships. It’s all about community and looking out for each other.”
This is the second year Ciarán has worked on the Cork Opera House pantomime with Trevor Ryan as director. About ten years ago, Ciarán worked with Bryan Flynn on the pantomime but he says he wasn’t fully ready for choreography at that stage.
“I still wanted to dance. So I kept dancing. As soon as I was ready (to choreograph), Trevor got in touch.”
Ciarán, who now spends about four months of the year in Cork, rehearsing the pantomime and doing some teaching, says a lot of people think “panto is easy peasy. But actually, there’s a lot of elements within it.”
Ciarán lives with his actor husband, Ed White, in Forest Hill, south-east London.
“When I first moved over, I lived in West Hampstead and I think that’s where my heart is. It’s close to Kilburn so there’s a big Irish dimension to it. We have bought a two-bed apartment in West Hampstead.”
Looking back on his star-studded career, Ciarán seems to be most excited about having worked on the London Olympics.
“The Spice Girls’ American choreographer wanted five boy dancers, partners for each Spice girl. There was no time to audition. I was lucky enough to be picked out of a pool of dancers. The Spice Girls came in black cabs. I was paired with Baby Spice, who I knew already. We were chatting away but they were all nervous, in particular Posh Spice. It was a big gig for them.”
While dancing on The X Factor, Ciarán didn’t have many dealings with Simon Cowell.
“He’s grand. Generally he doesn’t have anything to do with the dancers.”
When Louis Walsh is working on Irish TV, “he’s warmer and softer around the edges.”
Who would Ciarán like to work, with apart from the various celebrities he has already worked for? “I love Kylie’s shows. I would like to work with her.”
Looking back, Ciarán says the highlight of 2018 was choreographing the two male dancers that appeared on stage with Ryan O’Shaughnessy when the singer represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest.
“It was an amazing experience. Ryan wanted a same sex ‘couple’ dancing together. it got loads of media attention. We made a beautiful video one rainy afternoon in Temple Bar. RTÉ was wondering if we would use a guy and a girl instead of two guys holding hands. Eventually, they went with it and it paid off. Ryan got to No.16. The video went viral.”
That was all in a day’s work for Ciarán, who is very proud of his professional achievements. Dancing may be a young man’s game but he says he can choreograph “forever.”