Who would’ve thought that the internationally famous production Riverdance started out as an interval show? Since it first opened to a standing ovation in 1994, the dance-theater performance has shown in distinguished venues all over the world, including the Gershwin Theater on Broadway and the Radio City Music Hall.
How did the show get its name?
Riverdance was first shown at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest held throughout Europe. Customarily, whichever country won the contest got to host it the following year. Ireland won in 1993 and we had to host it in 1994. With that came the responsibility of putting together a production we wanted to show the world. John McColgan composed the music for an extended version of our interval show based on a major river in Dublin. He composed the music with a river in mind, taking into consideration how it began, how it ended and how it eventually flowed into the ocean.
Irish dance seems like a patchwork of influences.Is it inspired by other cultures?
When the great famine happened in Ireland, we began witnessing and adapting to other cultures. You can see some roots of American tap dancing, African dancing and Spanish flamenco rhythms in Irish step dancing. Also, if you look at the traditional dances of other cultures, you can pick out some elements of Irish dancing techniques. American tap dancing shoes produce clicking sounds at their tips, which is customarily a trait of Irish dance shoes.
What would you say is unique about Irish dance then?
What’s different about Irish step dancing is the way we hold our arms by our sides and keep our upper body strict and rigid. All our motions come from the waist down. It’s quite difficult. I’ve forgotten how hard it is to do because I’ve been doing it a long time but when I’m teaching someone new, I find it’s not easy to maintain balance.
What else should audiences watch out for?
Many who’ve seen the show before should be able to spot some of the subtle differences we’ve added to the overall performance. For those who’ve never seen it, the energy and myriad movements will capture them. The synchronization of the dancers is also amazing.