DanceFamilyNorth East & YorkshireReview

Riverdance – The Grand, Leeds

Director: John McColgan

Composer: Bill Whelan

Producer: Moya Doherty

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

As Riverdance celebrates its 21st anniversary, it displays all of the energy and dynamic imagination that it possessed in that striking Eurovision Song Contest performance back in 1994. Act one sees the performers coming to terms with the ancient world of the sun and all of the dominion for the first time and in a very primitive way. Dance at this time has a particular link to the magic of the world around them.

They also explore the heart’s yearnings, and especially in The Countess Cathleen the power of women and a counterpart to the patriarchal society. As well as belting ensemble numbers, the show has its quiet moments, like the lone piper mourning a Bronze Age warrior with plaintive melancholy and deep-felt sorrow.

Other escapades include firefighting, a thunderstorm and the power of the moon seen in the mythology of Shivna. There is ajoy too with the celebration of the harvest and act one ends in a cosmic celebration. Bill Whelan’s storytelling is highly evocative and his music is equally adept at conjuring up the right atmosphere for each scene without being prescriptive. As for John Colgan’s direction of the dancers, it incredibly lives up to the status a sell-out and much-lauded show deserves;simply superb.

The second act focuses more on historical subjects, including how the Irish were driven from their homes and forced to emigrate to the New World, including a beautifully enchanting song for the dispossessed as they arrive at Harbour. Their new sense of place has an effect on the dancers that is quite incredibly depicted; climaxing in the cauldron of the big city with hot Latin dance rhythms.

The denouement reveals the sense of nostalgia and loss felt by the Irish immigrants, building up to a spectacular finale with a sense of unity and pride in difference. With a design to die for and costumes that are as much a part of the story as the dance itself, this is a feel-good show that doesn’t shy from expressing darker moments but is essentially a celebration of the exuberance of life on earth.

Touring Nationwide | Image: Contributed

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