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Riverdance: A Night to Remember

Riverdance

The Irish Dance Troupe takes the stage performing the spellbinding number "Riverdance" at the end of Act 1. Courtesy Clark James Mishler, Courtesy of Abhann Productions

by Allison Onyett

Seeing Riverdance has been on my bucket list since I first watched the energetic Celtic troupe on TV in my teens. Even from the comfort of my living room their swift footwork was exhilarating. Tuesday night at the Jubilee Auditorium, I finally had the opportunity to see the show live.

Producer Moya Doherty, Composer Bill Whelan and Director John McColgan started Riverdance in Dublin in 1995. Their vision was to create a unique, exciting performance rooted in folk memory and arts of the Irish people. On tour with Broadway Across Canada in its 16th season, the Irish phenomenon continues this tradition, and tells the history of Celtic culture through Irish dance.

Riverdance: Act 1

The night began with the primitive days of exploring the earth’s elements in Reel Around the Sun. With feet moving so quickly you could hardly see them, the audience was instantly captivated. In Thunderstorm, another first act highlight, eight male dancers dressed head-to-toe in black, showed off high kicks and complex footwork in perfect synchronization. As they shouted out masculine cries of dominance à la Michael Jackson, the audience applauded encouragingly. Just before intermission, fan favorite Riverdance, brought 25 dancers on stage in shimmering emerald and periwinkle blue dancing in line, their fast moving feet not missing a beat.

Riverdance: Act 2

In the second act, we learned the story of integration and acceptance of other cultures. My personal favorite, Trading Taps showcased a dance-off in 1930s-style streetwear between the three principal Irish dancers, Craig Ashurst, Joe Moroarty and Alan Scariff and two jazz tappers, DeWitt Fleming Jr. and Michael Wood. The audience cheered and laughed at their comedic antics as they defending their own step dancing genre while showing the difference between the two.

Later, the calming solo Flamenco number by Marita Martinez-Rey in a long traditional Spanish black dress was mesmerizing, and a beautiful addition to the show. The highly anticipated Finale also did not disappoint—the entire cast once again took to the stage to perform an energized traditional Irish dance, feet pounding the stage in rhythm expressing unity and pride in their culture.

The Sweet Sounds of Ireland

The music, both vocal and instrumental, throughout the evening was as stunning as the dancing. During champion fiddler Patrick Mangan’s peppy solo I found myself tapping my feet along to the music and wondering if there were Irish dance lessons for adults in the city.

A Dancer’s Opinion

Overall, the evening was spectacular. My sister, an avid dancer, who accompanied me as my guest, was impressed with the troupe’s ability to dance in sync with such force and energy. She told me that often tap performers pre-record their performance and tap along to their own music. When the show began, she assumed they had done the this in order to achieve the high volume tap sound, however as the night wore on she became uncertain if it was pre-recorded, as their feet continued hitting the stage at exactly the right moment. There were also a few a capella numbers, meaning that the dancers were responsible for keeping the beat only with their feet, which my sister explained is extremely difficult to do.

While I do not have a dance background, I appreciated the artistic integrity, lightning feet, intricate choreography and stage presence of the dancers who seemed to be having as much fun as the audience.

Broadway Across Canada’s Riverdance runs April 19 – 24 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, 1415 – 14 Ave NW. For tickets call Ticketmaster, 1-855-985-5000.

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