The opening sequence gets straight to business and the audience is charmed by a toe-tappingly steady dance that lets everyone know they are at the right show – ready-salted Riverdance, the kind you might see on Richard & Judy. This paves the way for more experimental sets that play with what I imagine are traditional moves incorporating more modern concepts and influences from other types of dance.
The Irish dances and dancers were certainly energetic but the real depth to the show was brought by the foreign artists. The precise, emotional moves performed by an authentic Flamenco dancer were admirable and powerful. Interestingly, her two sets were the only occasions where there was just a single person on stage. A troupe of Russian dancers performing acrobatic Cossack routines stunned the audience with their skill; and a pair of jazzy New York tappers brought comedy coupled with unbelievable talent – I’m notoriously cold and reserved yet I started cheering during their grand finale.
The musicians – a fiddler, a saxophonist, a percussionist and another playing the Irish pipes amongst other such Irish things – were integrated into the production and frequently took centre stage. The music varied from the comparatively traditional to pieces that experimented with foreign sounds and styles. The fiddler seemed to want to pick a musical fight with the saxophonist on a number of occasions – in fact, there were many instances throughout the show where talents seemed keen to compete in artistic combat.
The show literature stresses the cultural importance of Riverdance, explaining that the production crosses the boundaries between past and present, native and foreign. It encourages the energy that can overcome difference and conflict. I admire the brazenness of this claim and in many ways it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Riverdance is a spectacular, polished performance that entertains by delivering some of the world’s most awesome dance, unashamedly stomping Irishness all over it.