When Tradition meets Fantasy

Yesterday evening I finally fulfilled a dream of mine, to see Riverdance live. The show arrived in Limerick, the city I have grown up in and which is located 10 minutes from my parents’ home. This is unusual and perfect for two reasons, one it has never toured to Limerick before and now on its 20th anniversary tour it has made a stop in Limerick and secondly it was ideal as it meant I could attend the show easily and not miss university to do so. Success.

  The production was spectacular. I have to admit I arrived at the show with an idea of what Riverdance was but the show presented to me far surpassed my expectations and captivated me completely. It was a show that not only entertained but took you on a journey. It, although I hate to do it i must add a slight negative, was let down by the scripting and lyrics , the story and flow of the show however did pay a beautiful homage to the history of Ireland and the spirit of the people of this country. There was such a variety of dance, music and entertainment that I was truly taken aback.

  There were definitely stand out moments and aspects of the show I prefered to others. Going in I didn’t realize there would be singing, probably naively I assumed it was an all dancing extravaganza. I was pleasantly surprised and have to say the haunting acapella moments added intensity and soul to the atmosphere being created. The vocal parts of the show offered quieter, reverent breaks in the otherwise high volume, high impact primarily dance sequence driven show.

  What I found really special was how the show captured the personality of the Irish and managed to convey the traditions of our culture in an artistic and tactile manner thus expressing what is felt by so many Irish people when reflecting on our heritage. I feel a deep draw to the past and when I think of the history of this country I recall of course the significant events that have molded this country but also the sceals and folklore that have been whispered and passed along over the years. Those stories shape my view of this country as much as the more solid facts of its history and making Ireland not only home to me but also a very precious and unique place indeed.

  There is mysticism about Ireland, and ancient ritualistic sense, a very grounded and natural quality to our traditions. Irelands past is indeed tumultuous but it is also filled with tales of triumph, stories of magic and music. It is a country where stories are narrated and pasted down, scenes are set on dark, moon light roads, there is often an otherworldly fog creeping around the tale and these stories are driven by courage, strength of character and passion. We are a very passionate people and this is reflected perfectly in our traditional music and dance which was at the core of the Riverdance show. The live traditional music was incredible, there were times when I found myself sitting very still with my eyes closed, transported by the tone and rhythm of the music. Traditional music to me is bliss, it is alive and unpredictable, raw, emotional and vibrant.

  Specifically regarding the dancing, I could honestly write pages but I will try and keep it short. The show covered a range of styles, particularly focusing on the rhythm of Irish dancing and also showing other global dance styles that have a similarity to the Irish style. By this I mean that Irish dance is an intense, audible style of dance and can be related to many other styles in its use of music and the creation of percussion. I especially enjoyed a scene where there was an incredible ‘dance off’ between two fantastic American tap dancers and three Irish dancers in hard shoes. Both styles are infamous for their fast feet and astounding rhythm so to see them battle, as it were on stage in their respective styles was a treat and a captivating and rousing experience. I really liked how the dance scenes managed to show the personalities of Irish men and women. There is a strength and confidence to the men but in each scene the women were still shown as dominant forces, powerful, sensual and in some cases almost supernatural. In many folk tales woman are not as you might imagine, as is the case in most fairytales, portrayed as damsels or princess rather Irish women are Queens or priestesses. I really liked this nod to the character of Irish woman and to the power of our sex and complexity of our character. There were of course also very ‘traditional Riverdance’ numbers where the whole company performed an awe inspiring display of timing, precision, passion, joy and talent. That image you see when you think of Riverdance, a solid line of dancers dominating the stage, stomping and shaking the venue, pulling an audience to their feet and lifting the spirits of the crowd. That was delivered fully and I left that show honestly inspired, proud and satisfied. I felt glad that I had not only seen that Riverdance spoken of with such respect and admiration for years but also that I had seen a little of my past on stage, my culture and my country and felt optimistic about the future and happy to have such a show in existence and touring the world to preserve our national spirit and bring joy to so many.

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