Originally finding fame as an interval performance during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, Riverdance, a music and theatre production characterised by impeccable synchronisation, has come to mean more than a visual celebration of Irish cultural heritage. It remains a global success loved by audiences worldwide, and it returned to Nottingham on its 20th anniversary tour.
The first act saw the introduction of a pagan, primitive landscape. The dancers portrayed the first people interacting with the elemental forces, moving under the mesmerising guidance of masculine radiance in the ‘Reel of the Sun’, and the female power of the moon in ‘Shivna’. Throughout the performance, dancers acted as musicians, beautifully accompanying the on-stage ensemble with the raucous beats of their ghillies and reel shoes to create a cacophony of ecstatic celebration. The troupe moved within the space as if within the ebbing and flowing current of a river, cascading on-stage with a transcendent energy that flexed beyond the bounds of the proscenium arch to enchant its ever-loyal audience.
The troupe moved within the space as if within the ebbing and flowing current of a river
The lead dancers provided a further touch of quality to the production in their abilities to command the stage space, and in their expressive performances. Emma Warren demonstrated a clear joy to be dancing; her commendable skill and enthusiasm added to the already uplifting atmosphere that one would expect from Riverdance. Her dancing partner Ryan McCaffey brought great character to the performance, particularly in the second half of the show during the light-hearted dance-off between the Irish and tap dancers, as both proudly performed the dances of their cultures.
Emma Warren demonstrated a clear joy to be dancing
Commendations must also be made to the outstanding ensemble of fiddle, percussion, saxophone, and tin whistle musicians (David Lombardi, Mark Alfred, Dave McGauran, and Matt Bashford), who played on-stage to further energise Whelan’s soundtrack and receive the recognition they deserved. Their superb playing made the dance scenes more digestible and engaging. Similarly, the ethereal choir, who broke the long stretches of dance with calming and haunting song, united the world of dance and music by moving within the dance-space to explore and redefine the inextricable bond between the two art forms. Praise must be given to Nicola Dempsey, whose solo voice was controlled, and beautifully captured a poignancy in the history of Irish people in the purity of her soprano high notes.
the outstanding ensemble of fiddle, percussion, saxophone, and tin whistle musicians….further energised Whelan’s soundtrack
This 20th anniversary production was sensational from the off, seducing its audience with outstanding solo dance performances, and mesmerising them with the intricate synchronisation of its group routines, all against the backdrop of a joyous, quintessentially Irish soundtrack. The legacy of the Riverdance thrives in this production, supported by an exceptional team of talented dancers and musicians, which even for those with little interest in the genre can appreciate and should endeavour to see. One elderly audience member sitting nearby, loyal like so many others who had made their way to the Theatre Royal on this opening night, claimed to have regularly seen Riverdance productions since its inauguration twenty years ago. As the performance ended she uttered a single word: magnificent, and I would have to agree.