Nostalgia is the theme of Riverdance’s 25th Anniversary show. Now closer to 27 years of running, factoring in the recent time off, the beloved show has returned with an already triumphant UK tour. The subtle changes that have been added over the years to a near perfect formula of tight choreography, electric energy, and beautiful staging only enhance the overall performance, enthralling from start to finish.
The opening montage of clips from years past is the perfect introduction that excites the audience for what is to come. Accompanied by loud triumphant music, the history of the show is relived in flashes of old performances, iconic figures in Irish dance, and cheering audiences. As the stage fills with dry ice, singer Zoe Talbot opens the show with a beautiful pure voice, setting the scene for the story to come.
While during the first act the audience seems reluctant to shout and cheer for fear of interrupting the intricate dances, as the show progresses the spirit and passion moves from the stage through the auditorium. Whistles, applause and cheers ring through the crowd for many of the higher energy performances, praising the sheer talent and exuberance of the dancers. The crowd wills them on through their astonishing footwork, at the edge of their seats should the performers falter – of course they never do. With almost reckless ease, these dancers maintain perfection throughout, passion and endurance showing through their faces.
Among those who garner the most shouts are lead dancer James Greenan and, a fan favourite through the years, Kenji Igus and Tyler Knowlin as the two charismatic tappers. Greenan astonishes with his energy and an imposing stage presence. The comedic competition between him and the Brooklyn tappers delights the audience, as they are simultaneously amazed by the footwork and pleased to see the funny repartee between the dancers as they mock each others’ moves.
Fantastic choreography and dancers aside, it is the details of the show that bring it all together. Talented musicians and stunning costumes help to create an overall effect that is totally enrapturing, meaning the show never once loses the attention of the audience.
Another highlight is the beautiful backdrop that accompanies the show and guides the dancers through the storyline. It takes scenes from mystical Irish forests of ages gone by to the streets of Brooklyn. While the storyline is fairly loose, the dances still manage to convey battles with the elements and effectively show the passing of time, explaining the spread of culture from its home in rural Ireland to America, Russia, and eventually back home again generations later. As the omniscient narrator says, the heart returns home, and with it returns new generations of dancers. This even mirrors real life, as the community of the show has created new troupes of dancers who have joined the cast at ages so young they were not even born when the show originated.
One hopes that as the show beautifully conveys the feeling of returning home, the dancers also feel like they are coming home after such a long time away – the true joy on their faces at being on stage suggests they feel exactly this.
Image credit: Jack Hartin © Abhann Productions