Riverdance’s 20th Anniversary World Tour Offers Much More than Nostalgia

A scene from Riverdance. Photo by Jack Hartin © Riverdance.

By Steve Sucato

When Riverdance began its first North American tour Bill Clinton was president, there was no such thing as an iPod, iPad or iPhone and Beyoncé was just that woman in Destiny’s Child. Now into its 20th year, few touring dance shows have achieved as much staying power.  A Huntington Featured Performance, Riverdance’s 20th Anniversary World Tour makes a stop in Cleveland, February 13-18 for 8 shows at Playhouse Square’s KeyBank State Theatre.

Seen globally live by over 25 million people and on television by over 3 billion, Riverdance continues to delight and pull in new audience members each year.

Produced by Moya Doherty and directed by John McColgan, Riverdance is more than just Irish dance and music, the show, set to composer Bill Whelan’s Grammy Award-winning score, includes an infusion of international dance and music as well.

“Outside of the Irish dancing we also have Russian, Spanish and American Tap dancers in the show,” says associate director, Padraic Moyles.  “As with most cultures or nations, the Irish found themselves migrating to different parts of the globe. Engaging with new cultures and experiencing their traditions and art forms have helped shape their culture and I feel that is true for so many countries around the world.”

Riverdance - The Show (Countess Cathleen)
A scene from Riverdance: Countess Cathleen. Photo by Jack Hartin © Riverdance.
A scene from Riverdance: Thunderstorm. Photo by Jack Hartin © Riverdance.

The show plays into that evolution of humankind beginning with our earliest ancestors. Through a series of dance and music numbers in the productions’ first half, it shows them coming to terms with the world and with themselves. The production’s second half then takes that journey through modern times, finally concluding with a celebratory return to Riverdance’s Irish roots.

Credited for helping to create an Irish dance craze in the U.S. shortly after its debut, a slew of other shows with Irish dancing in them appeared including several by former Riverdance star and choreographer Michael Flatley. So one can be forgiven thinking they have seen Riverdance when maybe they haven’t.

“I’m often amazed by the number of people who feel they have seen Riverdance [before], but when they describe what they’ve seen, you quickly realize that they are referring to another show,” says Moyles. “I guess in some way that is the power of the brand. But it would be a real shame [for them]not to see the original.”

Even if you have seen Riverdance before, the changes made to show over its past two decades on tour mean there is always something new to see. For this 20th Anniversary World Tour, a new ladies hard shoe Irish dance number was added. “Anna Livia,” choreographed by John Carey, says Moyles has quickly become an audience favorite with its rhythmic blend of footwork and vibrant movement patterns. Also new are updated lighting and projections but perhaps the biggest change comes in the show’s cast of performers says Moyles.

A scene from Riverdance: Anna Livia. Photo by Rob McDougall © Riverdance.
A scene from Riverdance. Photo by Jack Hartin © Riverdance.

“This is an entirely different cast and to me, having performed in the show for 18 years, this is the best cast of dancers we have ever had,” he says. “Their commitment to the art form, discipline and dedication bring a new energy and a totally new experience to the audience. To me, this is the best version of the show we have ever had.”

Riverdance’s 20th Anniversary World Tour will be performed:

Tuesday,  Feb. 13 at 7:30 PM
Wednesday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 PM

Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 PM

Friday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, Feb. 17 at 1:30 PM & 7:30 PM
Sunday, Feb. 18 at 1:00 PM & 6:30 PM

Playhouse Square’s KeyBank State Theatre, 1519 Euclid Ave., downtown Cleveland. Tickets are $10.00 – 75.00 and available at playhousesquare.org, by phone at 216.241.6000 or in person at the Playhouse Square ticket office. Groups of 15 or more, please call Group Services at 216-640-8600. For more information on the production visit riverdance.com.  

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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