Step on over to Merriam Theater to witness the magic of Riverdance’s 25th anniversary.

-Brenda Hillegas
Photo by Jack Hartin

Finding a family-friendly, indoor event in winter isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Riverdance is here at the Merriam Theater for a limited engagement (only through January 26th) and it’s guaranteed to be an experience everyone will love. Whether you see this show once or many times, you’ll never grow tired of the beautifully choreographed numbers and breathtaking movements of the performers on stage. Riverdance is celebrating a 25th anniversary with some re-inventions, so returning audience members should be expected to see the show in a way it’s never been performed before!

If you’re a first timer, you still know that Riverdance is simply a dance phenomenon. For the 25th anniversary tour, audiences will be quickly caught up to speed as clips play on a screen above the stage as an introduction- dancers throughout the last two and a half decades, news clips, Grammy-award speech, talk show appearances…Riverdance has truly taken the world by storm. The concept began in 1994 as a seven-minute dance routine for the Eurovision Song Contest. The reception from that piece inspired a full-length stage show by producer Moya Doherty, composer Bill Whelan, and director John McColgan. When the show broke records during its world premiere run in Dublin in early 1995, it was clear that Riverdance needed to be seen by the rest of the world. Soon, the show transferred to London, then a successful run in New York in March 1996. Eight sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall launched various tours throughout North America, Oceania, Asia, Europe, South Africa, and South America. Riverdance is here to stay.

It’s amazing to watch high energy step-dancing take place before your eyes. Everyone is perfectly in sync. High kicks are flawless. Dancers are swung around at ease, almost as if they were flying. But while you cheer on 25 years of Riverdance’s unique Irish dancing routines, all performed by an obviously dedicated troupe of dancers, you’ll also be wowed by everything else going on between these intricate routines.

The Riverdance band consists of instruments that blend together to evoke the Irish spirit-  drums, a bodhran, fiddle (performed by New Jersey local Haley Richardson), saxophone, and various whistles all channel the mystical, enchanting vibe you get from a Riverdance show. Uilleann pipes are so beautiful to hear live and we’re treated to a performance by band member Tracy Howley. Watching Richardson on fiddle play alongside Emma Frampton on sax was also amazing to watch, who knew these two instruments could become the perfect pair? The show’s soundtrack has been revitalized for this anniversary!

A Russian folk dance troupe also performs during the show, giving audiences the feeling that they are on a journey around the world, exploring dance and music along the way. A flamenco soloist (Rocio Montoya) is showcased, as well as an incredible tap-dancing number featuring tappers Lamont Brown and Tyler Knowlin. I could watch Irish step-dancing all day, but Riverdance also celebrates the energy and passion of all music and movement, fused together to create a production like no other.

Riverdance is exhilarating! And the finale- wow wow wow! Along with new lighting, staging and costume design for the anniversary tour, audiences will also be treated to a fantastic new finale number!

People have grown up with this show, step-dancers aspire to be a part of it. Performers met and fell in love on tour (64 marriages between company members and over 100 children were born since it began; the first Riverdance “baby” took the stage in 2018). To tour the world for 25 years, highlighting two decades worth of incredible dancers, vocalists, instrumentalists, is not something to be taken lightly. Come see this piece of world music pop culture for yourself. Only a few performances are left and tickets are available here.

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