Broadway World Interview: Emma Warren of RIVERDANCE
Broadway World San Francisco spoke with principal Riverdance dancer Emma Warren about life on the road and her time over the rainbow with BBC’s reality show.
Riverdance plays November 4-8 at the Golden Gate Theatre. Visit www.shnsf.com for tickets and information.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with BroadwayWorld San Francisco. “Riverdance” has been through California before. Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about what’s new for this 20th Anniversary production.
We have some new changes to the show. Not only do we have a new number, but also have redesigned the lighting and costumes. The new number is called Anna Livia, and it’s the first time in 14 years that there has been a new number put into the show. It’s an a cappella number, and it’s danced by the female dancers only. It has lots of rhythms and additional text by Bill Whelan, and it’s choreographed by John Carey. It’s basically a tribute to the strength and grace of all the female Irish dancers.
You’ve toured with Riverdance before. How does it feel to return as a principal dancer?
Oh, to be a principal dancer is just a dream come true for me. To get into the show in the first place as a troupe member was amazing, something that I never thought would happen, and then to become a principal dancer is fantastic. I’m so excited to be on the North American tour.
What are some of the dances?
We mainly have Irish dancing, but we also have other styles of dancing. There’s a flamenco dancer, and there’s American tappers and Russian dancers. We also have a live band on stage, as well. So there’s kind of something for everybody. The principal female dancer is a very strong, feminine woman. She has some beautiful pieces to dance that I really enjoy.
What about the stories and backgrounds for these dances?
The new number is called Anna Livia after James Joyce’s personification of Dublin’s river Liffey, which is the river that runs through Dublin and where Riverdance was born, where Riverdance got its name. And it’s a very strong number where all of the females, we’re showing off that we’re just as strong as all the males. The men have Distant Thunder, which is another a cappella number for them, and it’s a very strong, masculine number. So this is kind of the female version.
As a Dublin native, do you have a personal connection to the culture and folklore represented here?
Well I grew up Irish dancing, so Riverdance was always something that was very close to my heart, seeing it on the TV, and all the DVDs and the theatre. I grew up always knowing of Riverdance. It came in when I was just four years old. So I’ve grown up alongside it. I’ve felt a connection all the way through my dancing career. To be a part of it is amazing, me being from Dublin. And we also have a ten-week run in Gaiety [Theatre in Dublin] every year, so I get to go home for those couple of weeks and be at home with my family, and not tour, and experience the Irish audiences there. I really love it there.
How old were you when you started dancing?
I was very young. Probably about three or four. My mom is an Irish dancing teacher, so I went along to her classes when I was growing up.
Your mother must be very proud, then.
Yes, she’s so proud. She loves the show.
You specialize in dance, but you’re a singer, as well. You starred as a finalist on BBC’s Over the Rainbow competition. What was that experience like? Do you see yourself doing any musical theatre in the future?
That was amazing. My mom was an Irish dancing teacher, but my dad was a also a singer, so I was kind of lucky enough to inherit both of their talents. I was in college, and I went on a whim to this open audition and got into the final 20. It really helped my performance, which I had to bring to Riverdance, as well. We got to live in London for three weeks. We met Andrew Lloyd Webber, and all of the girls were lovely. It was a great experience for me.
For the moment, I’m concentrating on my Irish dancing. I’ve been lucky enough to actually perform the singing role in Riverdance, also. So, I’ve kind of been able to get my musical theatre side out there a little bit, too, in the show. But, you can only dance for so long, and I’m trying to make the most of that.
Speaking of over the rainbow, you’ve been overseas several times with Riverdance and other tours. Since Riverdance is a celebration of one particular culture, what is it like experiencing Chinese, American and other cultures?
Riverdance is such a worldwide phenomenon. Kind of every culture takes something from us and connects with the show. Each audience in each country is always different. We’ve just come back from Japan, and the audiences there were absolutely fantastic. They were standing up for ages and ages at the end of the show. The show doesn’t go there very often, so they really embraced it. We’re extremely lucky to experience all the different cultures.
How has life on the road treated you overall?
It’s extremely hard work,but all of the dancers are almost like athletes now. You have to be to perform the show seven, eight times a week. You have to be extremely fit, and the show keeps us in great shape. But it’s also a little difficult when you’re on the road to make sure that you get the right food and reserve your energy correctly. We sometimes struggle with that, because you might only be in the city for a couple of days, and you have to rush around trying to find all the good places. We communicate with each other. If we find something good, we’ll all go and get food. It’s like a little family on the road. We’re lucky that way. We look out for each other.
I’m sure those strong legs come in handy when you’re walking around doing all the tourist activities.
Yes, exactly. When we get time off, we try to go and explore the city as much as we can, because we don’t usually have that much time.
We’ll be glad to welcome you to San Francisco. Have you been here before?
No, I’ve never been. I’m excited to go.
Any particular spots that you’re looking forward to visiting?
I’m just excited to experience everything. I know we have an awful lot of shows when we’re there, but hopefully we have some time during the day when we can go and experience some of the culture, local food, local people, and some of the best places to hang out.