Riverdance – Review – Leeds Grand

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Riverdance – Review

Leeds Grand, April 2016

by Sandra Callard

Riverdance has opened on tour to packed houses and great acclaim. I can remember watching it explode onto television at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin. I recall sitting open mouthed and riveted to my seat as we watched six minutes of dance revolution. Last night I watched Riverdance performing in its twenty-second year at the Grand in Leeds. My reaction was exactly the same.

Riverdance at Leeds Grand Theatre 2The production has the beauty of ballet, the joy of tap, and the precision of the military. The rhythmic pounding of the dancers’ feet replaced by the haunting songs of a mystical old Ireland. There’s poetry that takes us into the realms of magic and memory. All the dancers are superb. The two leads, Emma Warren and Bobby Hodges, bring an artistic glory to the show that is incredibly rare.

The Irish dancing is inter-spaced with some magnificent Spanish flamenco by Rocio Montoya. There’s a breathtaking piece of Russian dancing by a seven-strong team. There is also a lovely, light-hearted piece of dance competition between the Irish dancers and a couple of American tappers (Rohan Pinnock Hamilton and Dharmesh Patel). It brought the house down.

The show comprises talents other than dance. The Riverdance Singers have beautiful voices which harmonise hauntingly as they bring echoes of ancient Ireland. The show carries its own band comprising four girls individually on fiddle, drums and percussion, tin whistle and saxophone. Nothing more is needed. Their skills complement each scene.

“A modern phenomenon”

Riverdance was something of a novelty when it first started. Many thought it was a show that would run its course and then fade. But the production has proved its critics not only wrong, but short-sighted in its evaluation of an audience. The show provides just about everything a person wants from a show, both visually and emotionally. The music is repetitive and compulsive. The dancing is athletic and startlingly ordered and uniform. The singers and musicians revive a spirituality which is latent in us all, but still yearned for.

Riverdance at Leeds Grand Theatre 4

Riverdance‘s young dancers give the show the required speed and energy. Yet the cast have an emotional maturity that belies their years. It makes the show accessible to all ages. I particularly noticed the ages of the audience were wide. The old and the young alike showed a voluble appreciation and were on their feet at the end.

The creative credits for Riverdance are numerous and impressive. Most have been with the show for the past twenty-two years. Bill Whelan, composer of the songs and music, producer Moya Doherty, and director John McColgan are all originals. The sets, lighting, costumes and sound are faultless. Each adding to the energetic and compulsive nature of a show that has become a modern phenomenon.

On reading through the above, I realise that some may say I have been overly effusive in my praise of Riverdance. I have not. It is impossible to be so. If you are one of those unfortunate people who have never seen the show, bring some joy and wonder into your life and see it immediately.

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