Thursday, January 15, 2009

The last Riverdance ...

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 5:45 PM

What: Riverdance
When: Through Jan. 18
Where: Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre
Tickets: $22-$57

After more than "10 thousand performance and 563 thousand miles," the record-setting run of Riverdance is finally running dry. The Irish step-dancing phenomenon that launched the career of self-proclaimed â??Lord of the Danceâ?� Michael Flatley is bowing out after 13 years with a â??farewell tour.â?� According to the PR-provided stats, in that time the show consumed 14,000 dance shoes, 16,000 guitar strings and 5.5 million pounds of dry ice. But in 13 years it has only played in Orlando one time, in 1999 (at a different venue), but now itâ??s filling the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre with the signature synchronized Irish-ish step-dancing for a first (and presumable last) eight-show stint.

The show largely consists of groups of attractive, athletic young people moving their feet very quickly while keeping their upper bodies still. They do this in various geometric patterns to Bill Whelanâ??s enthusiastically percussive Celtic rock score while wearing a variety of shiny costumes. Dance segments are separated by musical interludes featuring soprano Laura Yanez and an eerily ethereal choir, or semi-tonal noodlings on the uilleann pipes (an instrumental intersection between a bagpipe and a dying loon). I think there may be a theme involving the evolution of Ireland and her international emergence, but Iâ??m only guessing based on scene titles in the playbill and the smattering of mock-Moody Blues poetry narration.

Everyone on stage evidences immense talent and energy; principal dancer Alana Mallon is particularly gazellelike with her rapid-fire relevé. Her male counterpart Padraic Moyles fleetly follows in Flatleyâ??s footsteps from the knees down, but his relentless mugging recalled a Chinese acrobat angling for applause, especially in contrast to his stone-faced cast mates. Strong support comes from Evgeniya Starodubova and Sergey Bukreev of the Moscow Folk Ballet, who provide much-needed stylistic variety with some contemporary routines.

I appreciate the effort that must go into this style of dance, even if I canâ??t fully enjoy it. It reminds me of marching bands: fascinating to enthusiasts, and exhausting after an hour for the uninitiated. Riverdanceâ??s choreographic merits aside, John McColganâ??s theatrical direction is dated by its mid-â??90s aesthetic. The monumental video screen (suffering from scrolling electrical interference) is only occasionally used to good effect (like during Rocio Montoyaâ??s fiery flamenco solo), and the otherwise-excellent a cappella â??Thunderstormâ?� number is nearly undone by pleather pants.

In all fairness, the audience around me seemed blissfully unaware of any of the above, giving the performance a rapturous reception. If you are already a fan of this form of entertainment, by all means take the opportunity to say goodbye to an indisputable worldwide phenomenon. If not, you may decide (as I did) that youâ??ve seen everything you need or care to by the time intermission arrives.

by Seth Kubersky


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