Dancing on Dangerous Ground (2000)

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Released 23-Jul-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Dance Booklet
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of-Dare To Dance
Multiple Angles-5
Web Links
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 126:02
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jeremy Sturt

Warner Vision
Starring Jean Butler
Colin Dunne
Tony Kemp
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Seamus Egan

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes, during documentary
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, documentary comes after credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The beginning of the big interest in Irish dance can be dated quite accurately. It started with a short piece, a matter of a few minutes, during a Eurovision song contest. That piece was expanded into a show called Riverdance; which toured the world. After a major disagreement between Michael Flatley's ego and Riverdance management, he left the show, and was replaced by Colin Dunne (a better dancer, in my opinion). The performance of Riverdance that I saw featured Colin Dunne and Jean Butler. After several years, and tours all over the world, Colin Dunne and Jean Butler left Riverdance amicably. I must admit to wondering what they'd do next - now we know.

    Perhaps the most spectacular form of Irish dancing is the percussive form. This is what gave Riverdance its impact - kind of like tap dancing, but louder! Not all of it is percussive - there are some ballet-like dances, too, without the sound of shoes tearing up the floor - but the dances that get the loudest applause are percussive. One thing that sticks in my memory is the stage crew coming out during the interval to sweep the floor and remove all the pieces of  wood torn free by the dancer's shoes.

    Dancing on Dangerous Ground is an ambitious concept. It takes the Irish legend of Finn McCool, his betrothed Grania, and his best friend Diarmuid, and translates it into music and dance. The dancing is not traditional; although it is heavily influenced by Irish dance, it draws from other influences as well. It is choreographed by Jean Butler and Colin Dunne, who are also the lead dancers. The music is composed by Seamus Egan, and is heavily influenced by traditional Irish music, without being bound to it.

    The dancing is spectacular, and the music is good - they go well together. If you liked most of Riverdance, then I think you'll like this. Unlike Riverdance, there's no attempt to pay homage to a variety of dancing styles (no Russian, no Flamenco, ...), and there are no songs without dancing (there's only one song, in fact). One thing is like Riverdance - there's a narrator filling in the occasional gap in the story - the narrator's voice is meant to be that of Finn McCool (it is actually the voice of Barry McGovern, not Tony Kemp, who plays Finn McCool). There are no words spoken by the cast.

    There are some impressive dance pieces here. I really liked Diarmuid drills Finn's army (if "a capella" is singing without music, what is the term for dancing without music?); I've never seen anyone dancing and doing push-ups at the same time. Fate brings Diarmuid and Grania together has a number of styles of dance blended smoothly together, and portrays developing infatuation better than any dancing I've seen. At the Wedding of Finn and Grania has the greatest emotional impact. Finn's army wake from their drugged stupor has the men awakening with their arms tied to their sides - not something that will stop Irish dancers, given how little they use their arms, anyway.

    Indulge me in one complaint - why do directors tasked with capturing dance like this on video feel that they must go mad with the cuts from one camera to another? This is cut like a video clip, and that gets tiresome after a couple of minutes. And why, oh, why, do we get shots from directly above the dancers? This is Irish dancing, where most of the action takes place below the waist; shots from above seem pointless.

    Costumes are fairly simple, but effective. Jean Butler's costumes are designed to leave most of her legs free; her wedding dress is perhaps the most extreme, being quite long at the back, but having the front coming only to mid-thigh. At the start of the show both male and female dancers are wearing very wide, skirt-like trousers - I can best describe them as akin to the trousers that are part of the traditional aikido uniform. Oh, and I must mention the costume that Jean Butler wears for her curtain calls: an orange skirt combined with a red top that is all front - nothing at the back but ties (could have come straight off the set of Charmed).

    In addition to the performance of Dancing in Dangerous Ground, which seems to be somewhat abbreviated (a two hour show presented in 1 hour 14 minutes), we get a lengthy documentary on the creation of the show. More imaginatively than usual, the documentary is called Dare To Dance (not "The Making of..."). It begins with the arrival of the dancers, and follows the development of the show, the choreography of the dance numbers, the artistic differences between the director and the choreographers, the tension leading up to opening night, and the reaction to opening night. 

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The film crew have tried their hardest, and achieved mighty things, but they were fighting against the stage crew, and the mechanics of the MPEG compression system.

    MPEG achieves a considerable part of its effectiveness through deciding which parts of the picture are foreground (needing lots of detail) and which parts are background (needing considerably less detail). This works astounding well, and makes DVD possible - without MPEG compression DVDs would hold too little video to be practical. Unfortunately, this means that long shots, where there is effectively no foreground, are treated as background, and consequently lose detail. What kind of long shots? For example, any shot that shows us the entire dance company...

    It looks like this was filmed for television. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. That's a shame, really, because this could really have done with the wider image when showing the mass dancing.

    The image is quite sharp, particularly in close-ups. I attribute the loss of resolution in the long shots to the MPEG encoding, and not a reduction in sharpness. There's marvellous shadow detail, and no sign of low level noise. You will see a lot of haze in the image, but don't blame the film crew or DVD authors - the stage crew seem to have spent almost the entire performance generating smoke and fog (perhaps their smoke machine got stuck in the ON position?) - you can see the smoke curling up through the spotlights in many places. I wish they'd decided to skip the smoke for the performance they filmed. 

    Colour is strong and well-saturated, where it gets a chance - many of the costumes are black and white, or pastel. Stage lighting is not kind to filming - it is often too bright, and provides more contrast than is appropriate. The film-makers have done well in compensating for this.

    There's quite a bit of aliasing, especially on the edges of the skirts for some reason. It's not really troubling, but there's so much of it. Other than that, there's very little in the way of artefacts in the dance show. The Dare to Dance documentary, however, has been assembled from a variety of footage, some of which has considerable grain, and a few film artefacts.

    There are five dance sequences provided as extras with multiple camera angles. OK, there are only two angles for each sequence, but this is such an exception it is worthy of mention.

    Subtitles are provided in five languages, not the four listed on the cover. The cover lists French, German, Spanish, and Italian; there are English subtitles, too. I checked the English subtitles, and they are fairly accurate for the narration; there's very little spoken during this performance, anyway.

    The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, and appears to be structured in an interesting way. The stage performance, although the longest piece on the disc, is placed on the second layer, with everything else on the first layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two soundtracks on this disc, both English. One is Dolby Digital 5.0, while the other is Dolby Digital 2.0 (not surround encoded). I listened all the way through the 5.0 soundtrack, and sampled the 2.0. There is a lot of surround activity in the 5.0 soundtrack, but the 2.0 track is still a fine soundtrack.

    Dialogue? There's no dialogue at all (note: dialogue implies a minimum of two voices). The narrator's voice is clear and distinct, and suitably deep. 

    The music has been composed by Seamus Egan, and arranged by he and Dave West. It draws strongly on Irish traditions. It is performed using a mix of instruments, including traditional Irish instruments.

    The surrounds are continuously active, providing music and applause. This is truly immersive - placing the viewer in the audience.

    The subwoofer is completely left out - this is a 5.0 soundtrack, rather than a 5.1. You can use your bass management to bring the subwoofer into play, but it is not the same. I'd have liked to see the subwoofer used to give a bit more impact to the low end of the sound, but it can be argued that this would have been inappropriate.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is animated with music - pleasant to look at, if not the most straightforward to operate. I didn't realise that the documentary was on the disc until afterwards - it is not at all obvious from the menu. In fact, had the documentary not followed immediately after the credits for the dance I might have missed it altogether. The only way to get to the documentary directly is via an entry on the bottom of the chapter selection menu. The only extras listed on the main menu are the multi-angle pieces and the web link.

Documentary - Dare to Dance

    This is a substantial piece (52 minutes). It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, in a variety of styles (colour, black-and-white, hand-held), with Dolby Digital 2.0 (not surround encoded) sound. It provides a lot of background information about the development of the show. Very interesting stuff, and I recommend it.

Camera Angle Option

    What a strange name! This sounds like a setup option, but it isn't. This comprises five dance pieces from the show presented with two angles each. To be honest, I had trouble telling the difference between the angles, but this is interesting, nonetheless.


    This is not a single sheet of folded paper, but a real booklet of 20 pages. It includes a chapter listing (in five languages), and an explanation of the story behind the dance (also in five languages).

Web Link

    I didn't try this on a PC, but on a DVD player it brings up a screen which explains how to use the web link. You can always just type in the URL, anyway: www.nvcarts-video.com.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc is coded for every region except Region 1. I can find no listing for its release in Region 1.


    This disc, despite its flaws, is a fine piece of Irish dancing. It belongs next to Riverdance in your collection.

    The video is not as good as I'd have liked.

    The audio is very good.

    The extras are interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, July 30, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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