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Riverdance Broadway - A Spectacular Irish Smorgasbord

by Mila Gorokhovich
September 2, 2000
New York, NY



Riverdance Broadway - A Spectacular Irish Smorgasbord


By Mila Gorokhovich


September 2, 2000




As I entered the Gershwin Theater in New York City on Saturday, September 2, 2000, a peaceful, flowing river could be seen on the stage. How is that possible, one might ask? Amazing special effects helped to create a captivating mood throughout Riverdance Broadway.

Originally started in Ireland by producer Moya Doherty and known as Riverdance-The Show, Riverdance Broadway is a show that consists of various dancing, singing and instrumental acts by members of international companies such as the Irish Dance Troupe (from Ireland), the Moscow Folk Ballet Company (from Russia), the Amanzi Singers (from South Africa), Riverdance Tappers (from the United States), The Riverdance Singers, and the Riverdance Drummers. Also included are flamenco pieces performed by Rosa Manzano Jimenez (a native from Spain) and solos performed by fiddler Athena Tergis, Uillean pipe player Ivan Goff and singers Brian Kennedy and Tsidii le Loka. The voice of actor Liam Neeson spoke out throughout the show and submerged spectators into a philosophical world of nature and human freedom. It was an unbelievable experience to see these international artists come together to perform their unique acts.

Although every act which was performed had something special and interesting about it, I enjoyed the dancing by the various dance companies over the singing and instrumental acts. I also particularly liked the lighting, set and sound design. The background changed from a golden, firey sun at the end of the horizon, to a vigorous river, to a small cottage amid mountains and green meadows, to a pale moon in a cloak of darkness and scattered bright stars, and finally to bright city skyscrapers under a night sky. Each background fit extremely well with the theme of that particular act and the lighting was cleverly varied to fit the mood. The sounds that were included were those of thunder and lightning, a howling wind, the whisper of the river and other natural tones. There were moments where I felt as if I was actually in a river, with the wind and water surrounding me. It was very lively and realistic.

The show was split up into two acts separated by an intermission. The Irish Dance Troupe, as well as the singers, drummers and soloists that are part of the Riverdance Company, mostly performed in the first Act. The intricate and quick footwork of the Irish Dance Troupe was astounding to watch. The shoes of the dancers switched from soft shoes to tap shoes, but I found the dances done with tap shoes more interesting as there were moments where they created music and rhythm by dancing with their tap shoes without the assistance of background music. The perfection of this footwork cannot be met. The quick, intricate and startling perfection of this footwork makes the dancing of this Troupe so distinctive from other types of dancing. In "Countess Catheleen", the male dancers of the Troupe demonstrated that they not only have incredible footwork, but amazingly effortless high jumps as well. "Shivna", performed by two members of the Moscow Folk Ballet Company to the choral singing of the Riverdance Singers, was unique in that it combined Irish dancing with ballet movements. I recognized bourrees, jetes and graceful arm movements. In "Thunderstorm", performed by Pat Roddy and the Irish Dance Troupe, I noticed Pat Roddy executing jumps such as high cabrioles and stunning grand jetes. Flamenco dancer Rosa Manzano Jimenez demonstrated her ability to make her arms and hands appear like they have a life of their own. The way her hands danced out of her wrists was wondrous. As she began to use her feet to match the rhythm of the guitar and the fiddle, the appearance of fire never stopped springing from her eyes. It was not surprising to see that the dance itself was called "Firedance". During the dance, the Spanish flamenco music began to get hints of an Irish tune that included the fiddle and the Uillean pipes. However, the dancer continued with the flamenco tapping technique. This was an unusual blending of styles. In "Slip Into Spring-The Harvest", fiddler Athena Tergis danced on the stage while playing her fiddle. It was obvious that she was having a very fun time up on that stage. She never stopped smiling and it was fantastic to watch her play her fiddle with such energy.

One of the acts that caught my eye in the second Act was "Trading Taps", performed by Walter "Sundance" Freeman, Channing Cook Holmes, Karen Callaway Williams and three members of the Irish Dance Troupe. The 'plot' of this act was a competition between three city tap dancers and three Irish tap dancers. The six dancers competed with one another in terms of who could execute the most difficult combination. The way they performed their steps and the attitude that they showed one another made the audience smile and laugh. Following "Trading Taps" were the Amanzi Singers, who sang in a lively, gospel chorus. Soloist Tsidii Le Loka was pleasant to hear, although I found her voice a bit rusty. "The Russian Dervish", performed by the Moscow Folk Ballet Company was extraordinary. The male dancers jumped so high that it seemed their shoes had springs. The energy and power that they showed was breathtaking. They were acrobats. As for the music, the traditional Russian folk dance was blended with Irish instrumentals where once again, there was that unusual blending of different styles. "Homecoming" was a piece in which fiddler Athena Tergis and Ouda (an Irish drum) player Robbie Harris joined in a duet and in a bit of rivalry. Their talents complimented each other by Athena Tergis' vibrancy, joyous and carefree sparkle and Robbie Harris' eye-boggling technique on the drum.

The entire company took part in the finale and every performer(s) demonstrated their distinctive talent. The Irish Dance Troupe worked their magic with their quick feet and unity. It was remarkable to see some 30 dancers on the stage in one line, executing unbelievable tapping with their feet and not kicking one another. Gradually, the Russian dancers and even the flamenco dancer joined in on the line and it was a spectacular sight. The producer clearly made the point of showing how the Irish spirit can intermingle with the nations of the world while maintaining its own exclusive Irish tradition and glory.




Contact Info: Information about the Riverdance company can be found at www.riverdance.com. Tickets to see a performance of Riverdance Broadway can be received by calling the Gershwin Theatre at (212) 586-6510.
Gershwin Theatre is located at 222 West 51st York, NY
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