Riverdance in SA - Mesmerising, spectacularly sublime - Riverdance press review

Riverdance in SA – Mesmerising, spectacularly sublime

1st February 2011

Diane De Beer, STAR Tonight

If you saw Michael Flatley and his glitzy shows that became too furiously commercially driven, this original mother show of Irish dance is stripped and allowed to sparkle with artistry, which is where the spotlight shines brightest and belongs. It is spectacularly sublime.

Brush aside any thoughts you may have about them not keeping your attention for two hours. From the moment this group emerge from the wings, one is lost in their mesmerising performance.

Riverdance has been running since 1995 and, while we have seen many copycat versions, this is the original show’s first time round. It doesn’t matter that it’s 15 years down the line – they haven’t lost any of their initial allure and it’s fascinating to see where the Irish dance phenomenon began.

The show celebrates Irish heritage in all its glorious splendour. From the fantastic Flamenco dancer Rocio Montoya, whose fluid gracefulness complements the rhythmic movement of the Irish dancers, to the flamboyance and improv of the two tappers, Kelly Isaac and Gilbert L Bailey, that emphasises the unique style of Irish dance, it’s a showcase of how to pay tribute to your country’s culture and preserve it for future generations.

The tappers and the Irish male dancers engage in an intriguing artistic conversation – juxtaposing an Irish jig with a laid-back jazz interlude – which is approached in a light-hearted fashion but also has serious things to say about different cultures and how their work flows in and from one another in most amazing fashion. In the end, it is the nature of a people that will determine their art.

There’s the almost other-worldly singing of the lead soprano supplemented by a chorus of divine singers and an exuberant band that either takes centre stage or adds to dance pre-recorded tracks but, in the end, there’s no one on that stage who doesn’t make their presence felt.

This is true from the energetic drummer who moves from back stage to perform a most innovative solo, to the invigorating violinist who fetches another last note out of nowhere before she leaves.

Finally, it is the extraordinary dancing by the Irish team that bedazzles. With his explosive dancing that sets the tone, every move Padraic Moyles executes is enhanced by his supporting troupe of male and female dancers.

They tap their way through the gamut of Irish folk dance, from a scene that could be set in an Irish town square and reminds one where these dances originated and how much they formed part of the fabric of Irish life, to the boldly dramatic conclusion where the tapping is lightning fast and done with great precision – it’s a reminder of how much work has gone into achieving something that seems to come so naturally.

Catch them before they’re gone. They dance their way into your heart in an instant.

VENUE: Teatro, Montecasino, until February 20

First South Africa run for iconic show suggests that the original is best


Adler Theatre, Davenport, IA - Encore Performance of Riverdance