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Theater Review: Riverdance hasn’t lost a step after 25 years

by Andy Haynes

The Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show stomped its way on stage at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando and “Attractions Magazine” was invited to check it out. Originally conceived in the mid ’90s, Riverdance sought to take the restrained styles of traditional Irish dance and music, and bump them up to the next level by adding in explosive high energy.

Riverdance

Riverdance is perhaps most widely known for its dancers standing tall and straight, arms locked at their sides while their feat tap up a storm. Indeed, that image has been widely parodied and often mocked over the decades, but one needs only look at the staying power of Riverdance to realize the show is much more. This remounting utilizes much of the original choreography by former principle dancer and headliner, Michael Flatley, as well as adding and expanding along the way.

Riverdance is indeed a dance show and you will see plenty of examples of the famous “arms at the sides” style, but that alone would not be enough to maintain a two hour show. The show is broken up by several other styles of dance (all still with roots in tap and quick footwork) as well as live musicians and dancers pulling double duty as singers. The singers and musicians often take center stage allowing the rest of the company a moment to catch their breath and change their costumes. A particular shout out going to virtuoso violin player and the percussionist who drove the beat throughout. The result is a high energy show that briskly dances from start to finish without ever really letting up.

Riverdance

A particular favorite number involved an almost “West Side Story” dance-off between some Irish Riverdancers and some American tappers which included some humorous gentle ribbing of the stilted Riverdance style. That number and much of the show was led, as one might expect, by the principal dancers. In the performance we saw, these parts were taken by Maggie Darlington and Fergus Fitzpatrick (taking the Michael Flatley roles) who both commanded the stage whenever they were present.

It’s not often I see a show at the Dr. Phillips Center during which I don’t notice a single technical mistake, but Riverdance was quite the exception. From start to finish the show executed crisply and cleanly with no errant cues from sound, lights, or video, and no performers stumbling on stage and falling out of rhythm. Or if any of that did happen, it was most definitely not noticeable, which is all that really matters. If I had one critique, I would have liked to see an epilepsy warning presented with the show. Neither my theater companion or I suffer from the condition or any specific light sensitivity, but we both commented on the intensity of the projections of lightning that flashed rapidly across the stage during “Thunderstorm”, and hoped no one suffered any ill effects from them.

All told, Riverdance is and has remained a cultural institution since it first burst on the scene 25 years ago. Even as someone who wouldn’t call himself a particular fan of dance, I really enjoyed myself. The show moves briskly and offers an exciting and high energy evening of dance and music I really believe everyone should experience at least once. Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show is a fitting tribute to the legacy and impact of Riverdance and brings hope for another great 25 years.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit drphillipscenter.org. For details on when Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show will be touring near you, visit Riverdance.com

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