Although I had heard many good reports about Riverdance, being mainly interested in jazz and modern music I didn’t think an evening watching traditional Irish music and dance would be as entertaining for me as it might be for some. I was wrong. From start to finish I was enthralled as I watched the 20th anniversary production at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin.
Riverdance was first presented to the world in 1994 when it was given a seven minute slot in the interval of the Eurovision Song Contest hosted by Ireland that year. It was so successful that nine months later the full Riverdance show premiered.
The show consists of a small amount of narration, some short instrumental solos, and of course a lot of Irish dancing. In addition there is also tap, hip hop, and flamenco too. During the course of the show we see dancers performing individually, in pairs, and in almost any other numerical combination. But nothing surpasses the power, energy, and pure excitement as the full dance troupe dancing in perfect synchronization.
I was in the upper circle, the lowest priced seats at the top and back of the theatre. However, this gave me a good view of the entire stage from above. Yes, it would have been nice to be closer, but if I had chance to see the show again I would still be happy to be in the same seats.
Without doing any research, or reading the programme notes, I found it hard to know exactly what the show was about. But I am not alone. Everyone I have spoken to who has seen the show finds it difficult to give a succinct synopsis. However, the visual and auditory experience was more than enough to satisfy the senses without having any other knowledge (although I suspect, as with many things, the deeper you look, the more you find).
The instrumentalists were absolutely first rate, and the band I saw consisted of a bodhran (an Irish drum), a violin, a soprano saxophone, a whistle and kit drums. I could also hear a bass guitar and keyboard but was unable to see them. I checked the website for the production I saw but found the list of band members to be incomplete.
The rhythms in Irish music are entrancing, yet I was surprised to find that Riverdance doesn’t consist entirely of Irish music. One of the highlight for me must have been the soprano saxophone solo, which clearly had its roots in jazz.
Over the past 20 years newspapers from around the world have given Riverdance excellent reviews. I’m always sceptical about what critics say, but in this case I have to agree with them. The Times reports ‘a family evening unlike anything else!’ The Toronto Star says, ‘Delightful! Energetic! Sexy!’ But The Washington Times probably sums it up the best when it reports ‘The show is quite simply incredible’.
I think if Riverdance ever comes to my town I’ll be one of the first to get a ticket. It truly is a remarkable show.
My thanks to 'Riverdream Productions Ltd' for supplying the photo of the dance troupe for use in this article.