Dallas — Brimming with energy, intensity, and talent, Riverdance stunned audience members with an enchanting performance on its 20th anniversary tour, presented by AT&T Performing Arts Center. This Irish production rallied together incredible musicians, dancers, and designers to produce an epic show with far away lands and magical stories.
From the moment the show began, Riverdance immediately cast a spell on the viewers with its glittering projections of stars and the creeping fog from the smoke machine. The eerie, dreamlike music coming from behind the screen set up a magical tone as the dancers slowly stepped onto the stage. As the screen rose, it revealed dancers in deep green tunics and black leggings forcing their tap shoes into the ground with precise, ordered steps. Their feet bounced off the floor in rhythmic harmony to their live musical counterparts and the dancers skipped in and out of circled formations to create hypnotizing visuals.
The stage continued to swell with intensity as Principal dancer Maggie Darlington demanded attention in The Countess Cathleen. Her extraordinary technique manifested itself in her accented footwork and her powerful focus. The fluidity in her arms balanced the rigidity of her legs as she bounced from the stairs to center stage.
Another highlight of the evening was the dynamic performance of Thunderstorm. Eight male dancers stood fearlessly as thunder boomed overhead and strobe lights cast jarring shadows across the stage. Once joined by their leader, they yelled and shouted as their legs pushed off the floor into the air. Powerful, forceful, and majestic, this group of men displayed a series of kicks, heel clicks, and turns that imitated the intensity found within the natural world.
Following this grand spectacle, a single dancer, Marina Claudio Manso, glided to the top of the stairs in a red, sparkling, floor-length dress. Firedance featured Manso’s impressive Flamenco skills and highlighted the diverse talent amongst the cast. With musicians surrounding her with percussive cues, Manso tapped her feet in small, short steps as her arms twisted and her wristed slithered through the space.
Act II continued to amaze audience members as the characters made their way through new relationships, countries, and cultures. In Trading Taps, two phenomenal tappers engaged in a battle of rhythms with a trio of Irish steppers. This back and forth revealed showy tricks, comedic intervals, and awe-inspiring technique. Although the piece glistened with creative rhythms, the obvious racial and cultural stereotyping of two black men battling three Irish men left me questioning its integrity and relevancy in our current racial climate.
Another trip to distant lands appeared in the form of Macedonian Morning/The Russian Dervish. Three women dressed in bold red dresses and three men in white and blue tops took turns crossing the stage with impressive jumps, dizzying turns, and powerful squats. In addition to their sharp unified kicks and steps, they performed fast moving partner work that featured moments of pure magic. One man circled his partner underneath while he jumped over her legs like a jump rope, while the other men hoisted a woman on each hip and spun around one another as their partners literally soared off their sides.
Circling back to the travelers in the story, Heartland re-introduced the entire Irish Dance Troupe including their featured soloists. Their simple black and white attire allowed for one final look at their flying feet and stiff upper bodies. As they joined hands for a line that stretched from one end of the stage to the other, the sheer number of dancers in sync provided a compelling visual.
The production was seamless — every formation in place, each rhythm was exactly in time, and every performer embodied their character with maturity and professionalism. After 20 years, Riverdance continues to lead a large following of entertained audiences.