Music has an unshakable power; it can take you on a journey of the mind, body, and spirit, moving you in a way both mentally and physically unlike anything on Earth. In 1994, the Eurovision Song Contest saw the origin of a concept of musical dance theatre that would wash over the world like a rogue storm with two Irish dancing champions in Michael Flatley and Jean Butler performing a traditional Irish dance routine that reached a worldwide audience of over 300 million people. This would grow into the phenomenon known as “Riverdance,” and now, on its 20th Anniversary tour, it returns to Dallas at the Winspear Opera House through March 25th.
Kieran Hardiman and Maggie Darlington lead an international cast of dancers, musicians, and other talented artists to tell the story of Ireland’s heritage and the journey that many of them made to find a new life as immigrants in the United States. However, the story takes a back seat to the spectacle and splendor of the rich culture of the people of Ireland and their love for music and dance. Before your time is over with them, it also displays numbers of a more diverse and international flavor including Russian Folk dancing, Spanish Flamenco, and American Tap, establishing music and dance as the international melting pot and universal language they truly are.
I had mixed feelings going into this production, as it never truly appealed to me when the initial mania hit in the mid-‘90s. It looked relatively boring and uninteresting to me, with a very militaristic and rigid promotional campaign that focused on the intensity and discipline of the program, completely devoid of the fun and frivolity that is also present. After a rather straightforward and serious first half of Act I, the production truly took flight for me as The Riverdance Band – Mark Aldred, (Percussion) Ceilidh Briscoe, (Fiddle) Emma Frampton (Saxophone) and multi-instrumentalist Tara Howley play off of each other in a sort of “musical battle” that is spectacularly delightful. After bringing the house down to perform the titular number, leaving jaws dropped throughout the performance hall at the close of Act I, my opinion had completely changed and was anxious for Act II to begin… and it did NOT disappoint. “Riverdance – 20 Years” is something that EVERY fan of music and dance, regardless of background or culture can admire and appreciate. It is a feast for the eyes as well as the ears and will give you just a little bit more spring in your step as you leave the performance hall.