As someone who has been going to theatrical performances, dances and concerts for nearly two decades, I rarely get wowed by what happens onstage. The farewell performance of Riverdance, however, not only wowed me, but it also pushed me out of my seat to cheer for the performers.
As the dancers twirled and bounced effortlessly across the stage, I couldn’t help but lean forward in my chair to see just exactly how they managed to move the way they did. I can understand now why Riverdance has such a large amount of devoted fans.
Riverdance began as a simple seven-minute performance on the 1994 “Eurovision Song Contest,” and has since transformed into a beautiful blend of dance, music and song. Each performance pulls its inspiration from Irish traditions while capturing the imagination of its audiences.
The Riverdance Irish dance troupe is comprised of world champion Irish dancers from Ireland, Great Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia. Each one of these dancers is able to fly across the stage as if they had springs attached to their feet. The sheer number of talented individuals in this show was enough to make you wonder if there is a farm out there that simply breeds these talented people.
Liam Ayres, one of the lead male dancers for the North American tour of Riverdance, did a superb job of leading the dance troupe throughout the different performances, but it was his female counterpart, Alana Mallon, who seemed to carry the poise and elegance expected from Irish dancers.
Because of their great talent, it saddened me to see that the production called for a recording of the dance steps to be played over the actual dances. While I understand that the music was loud, two more floor microphones would have sufficed to pick up the dance steps. The dancers were good enough on their own during the silent solo routines, leading me to believe that the recording would not have been missed if it wasn’t there. As a matter of fact, the dances seemed almost redundant with it.
Between dances, the Riverdance singers were led by Laura Yanez. While the music was haunting, it wasn’t necessarily in a good way. The blocking during the songs bordered on over- produced, which is sad considering that soloist Laura Yanez was obviously holding back her talent, which peeked through as the performance progressed.
It was the second act that truly brought the Riverdance performance to life for me. Throughout the first act, the Irish dances dominated the stage, with interludes of music from the musicians on stage. But with the help of a Flamenco soloist, American tappers and the Moscow Folk Ballet Company, the second act was more homage to the international appreciation of dancing creativity.
The highlight of the performance was “Trading Taps,” which was a dual performance by the tappers and the Irish dance troupe. Two talented tappers, Jason E. Bernard and Kelly Isaac, caused the crowd to not only roar and cheer them on, but laugh as they traded steps with the Irish dancers. The two teams gave their best steps, making everyone wonder how they were able to be so agile and graceful while performing difficult dances.
The Riverdance musicians were also a truly inspiring element of the performance. Patrick Mangan, the fiddle player, knows exactly how to get the audience clapping and bobbing their heads along to the music, by running his fingers and bow over the strings and creating a breathtaking melody and sound. Declan Masterson, who played the uilleann pipes and low whistles during the performance, was able to create the setting for the dancers and singers. The musicians were top-notch, and without them, Riverdance wouldn’t be half as good.
As the show winds to the end of its tour, it is easy to see how this show has become an international favorite. This show will be missed by many, but the talent of these individuals will surely continue in whatever they do.
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