When I was growing up in the 1990’s, I didn’t have many TV channels to choose from. Back then, I didn’t see it as a good thing. (Especially since I wanted to watch the Disney Channel all the time and we couldn’t get it!) Today, I’m happy I grew up with a limited amount of TV channels because it forced me to not rely on the TV for entertainment and it exposed me to TV shows and specials that I never would’ve seen any other way. One of those TV programs is Riverdance.
Saint Patrick’s day is coming soon, so I thought a review of the original Riverdance would make a great post to commemorate the holiday.
If you never heard of Riverdance, or are unfamiliar with Irish step dancing, Riverdance may be hard to understand. While double checking my information about the show, I found this summary from Wikipedia explained the show the best…
Riverdance is a theatrical show consisting mainly of traditional Irish music and dance. With a score composed by Bill Whelan, it originated as an interval performance act during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, featuring Irish dancing champions Jean Butler, Michael Flatley and the vocal ensemble Anúna.
The movie that I am reviewing is the first recording of the show. It was recorded during the first run of the show in Dublin, Ireland in 1995. It stars the original cast, which includes Jean Butler and Michael Flatley as the lead dancers and performances by Anúna, a choral ensemble from Ireland.
When the show premiered on PBS as part of the pledge drive in the 1990’s, I immediately fell in love with it. (I also believe my love for the show was driven in part by the fact a few of my best friends took Irish step dancing classes) Even though I love the show so much a child, continued to love it into adulthood. So, what do I think about the original stage performance all these years later?
Well, I love the music. For me, the best part of the show was always the music. I love traditional Irish music (Better known as trad music) and I still really enjoy it today. I also love music that is inspired by trad music, such as the songs on Ed Sheeran’s album Divide. Even though the music and show is over twenty years old, I still enjoy putting on the CD or the video of the show and play it in the background.
Even though I love the music a lot, I watched it so many times over the years that I began to not watch the actual show. I believe this happens to everyone who is familiar with movies and TV show that they enjoy. Still, this causes me to miss out on the visuals, difficulty of the dance performances, and even the storyline of the show.
If you never watched the original 1995 recording of the show, then you will need to sit down and actually watch it instead of letting it play in the background. There are stories woven into the dances, similar to the way a ballet tells a story, and the first time viewer will miss a lot of the important details of the show and dances if they don’t pay attention to it.
Riverdance is based off Irish culture and stories, which could be harder for anyone unfamiliar with them to understand. One of these stories is called The Countess Cathleen, a story that inspired a song and dance in the show. Another storyline is based off Irish immigrates from Ireland and to the United States. This is why it is so important to watch the 1995 show first before leaving it on in the background to enjoy the music.
Another important aspect in the show that needs to be mentioned is the fact there are other cultures represented in the show. There is a flamenco dancer from Spain, tap dancers from the United States, and a section dedicated to Russian dance. The multicultural aspects of Riverdance make the show even more entertaining and enjoyable to watch.
Since Riverdance premiered in Dublin in 1995, there have been many shows and tours, some of them recorded and available to own and watch. Still, I believe the original 1995 show should be watched first. This is because it is the first show with the original cast and there are parts of the show omitted from later versions due to a smaller venue. To see the original show the way it’s creators wanted it to be performed, watch the 1995 recording of the show.
I really do recommend this show to anyone who is curious about Irish step dancing, anyone who wants to listen to Irish trad music, and anyone looking for an insight into the culture of Ireland. I also recommend this show for anyone who wants to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day at home without alcohol.