Strap on your dancing shoes, there's going to be a knees up as Riverdance are in town this week celebrating their 20th anniversary at the New Theatre. I put my cynicism aside – how enjoyable can a group of people stood in a line, jumping up and down and stomping their feet be – and prepared to see what all the fuss was about. I joined an eclectic and enthusiastic audience who applauded at the dimming of the house lights as the first wisps of dry ice sauntered onto the stage, and was soon equally captivated by the performance.
I have to admit that, even after enjoying the show enormously, I am not clear about its narrative or how flamenco and Russian dancing fit with the central themes of Irishness, Irish experience through the ages and Irish music and dance. However, both the music and the dance were eloquent and emotional and the flamenco dancer was particularly expressive. The music drives the show and modulates its pace and tone and I was very impressed with the four musicians who were on stage for the majority of the show. I was particularly pleased in the latter part of the second half when drummer, Guy Rickarby, was let out of a very impressive percussion corner to wow us with his tabor solo.
But the show stands and falls on the skill of its dancers, and I was very impressed by the whole company. As with most things in life when it looks easy there is probably a great deal of effort involved and this is certainly true here. Each individual dancer was clearly at the peak of their profession and must have dedicated many hours of practice, solo and with the company, to achieve such graceful co-ordination. The backstage crew were equally slick and coped admirably when a radio mike failed during a critical solo. Stephen Brennan, the male principal, danced with great control and elegance and was particularly impressive in the air where he maintained fine lines. His clear enjoyment of the show was mirrored by the company and so enthused the audience that by the time the show reached its predictable climax – all the dancers stood in a row, jumped up and down and stomped their feet – children were dancing in the aisles, half the audience were on their feet and everyone, including me, was clapping and cheering along.
There is a rhythm to life and love and last night I found Riverdance reflects it with great life-affirming joy. I really enjoyed the show and wended my way home with tapping feet and the strains of Irish music rebounding in my heart. I would happily recommend the show to friends and would defy anyone not to tap their feet, clap along and be thoroughly entertained.