>RIVERDANCE - THE SHOW by The Liffey Company

>reviewed by arthur kok

>date: 2 nov 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: singapore indoor stadium
>rating: ****

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


The crowds were cheering, a woman was dancing with her wee daughter, even my mother was clapping along. Every person was infected in some way by the powerful experience on stage. The total company of over 90 performers turned itself out in scene after scene of mesmerising music and dance.

Conceived as a journey, RIVERDANCE - THE SHOW was a sensory tour of the way Irish culture has evolved. Fintan O'Toole says RIVERDANCE exists as a continuing enterprise of what Irish people have always felt: "you can have it both ways. You can honour the past by giving it a future. You can preserve a tradition only by letting it live, breathe and change". The night was then a negotiation of cultures.

With upper bodies quiescent, Irish dance features the legs in articulating an effortless defiance of gravity. Tapping with precision, scissoring front and back, legs straightened and bent in succession to weave a rhythmic sound-picture. Although Breandan de Gallai and Julie Regan amply demonstrated why they were the principal dancers, it was the en masse routines that most powerfully evoked the earthshaking signature that is RIVERDANCE. Bravo to all who danced Irish!

>>'Every piece emerged as a celebration, a triumphant exhibition of Light and Life.'

Despite the Irish overtones , music and movement from elsewhere were delightfully featured. With a sop-saxophonist interpreting with jazz funk an earlier Irish tune, black dancers tapped their way into the audience's heart with playful abandonment. Their parody of the Irish dancing form was especially spot on. Nonetheless, competition was not the point as both Irish dance and Black tap finally melded into a friendly imitation of the other.

The evening belonged however to one singular person. Yolanda Gonzalez Sobrado riveted the audience with her fiery presence. Arms serpentine, dress hem vivaciously animated and feet stamping pert with confidence, she worked the audience into its loudest applause. In one segment, her spry flamenco was a bewitching complement to de Gallai's powerful leg work.


Not that the night was all about dance. The cultural fete was only as amazing as the live music, and the music was excruciatingly good. A gifted band of musicians carried the performance with guitars, drums, synthesisers together with the more unusual fiddles, whistles, bodhrans, uilleann pipes, Eastern gadulkas and kavals. At several points, the musicians even took to the stage and enthralled the audience with instrument sparring.

To complete the semiotic experience, lyric narrative framed the Irish journey with a primordial beginning, a coming into oneself and a climactic marriage with other cultures. Every piece emerged as a celebration, a triumphant exhibition of Light and Life. RIVERDANCE - THE SHOW at turns gushed like a mighty torrent or lapped gently as a sparkling brook onto a people thirsty for too long … and we are truly refreshed!