Thursday, February 15, 2018

“RIVERDANCE 20” delights with its blend of dance, music, and telling of tales

Mention the name “Riverdance” and the general thought of many is Michael Flatley.  Yes, Flatley, the Irish dance champion and the theatrical show consisting of mainly Irish music and dance, are synonymous. 

Flatley and his partner, Jean Butler, were featured as an interval performance during the 1994 Eurovision contest and immediately became sensations. 

The seven-minute act became a full-length show with some signature elements.  Even today, 20 years later, most of the songs have not changed since that original production.  Once you’ve seen a staging, you will get an opening of a foggy stage and haunting flute solo, the telling of Irish tales, Gaelic musical interludes, and traditional Irish and international dancing. 

The show can be credited for transforming what was a chaste, reserved, traditional dance, with its own specific movement vocabulary, into an international favorite and identifiable performance form.

Rooted in baroque-influenced music, rock rhythms, Irish legends, and Irish “jig” dancing, the production has reached the level of being a legend.

No, Flatley is no longer a member of the show, having left in 1995 after a contract dispute.  Maybe because of that there have been some adjustments in the program, especially featuring more of the dancers, with less emphasis on it being a one-man show. 

The concert has become more international.  A Russian Folk Troupe, Flamenco soloist, and American Tappers are part of the goings-on.

In fact, the highlight of “Riverdance 20” was “Trading Taps,” a competition between two African American tappers and three of the company’s principle male dancers. 

Other audience favorites were “The Russian Dervish,” highlighted by high kicking Soviets and “American Wake,” a square dance with Irish dance steps.

Will you miss the flamboyant Flately?  Opening night the lead male dancer was handsome, charismatic Callum Spencer.  He danced with high proficiency and, as demonstrated by the screaming at curtain call, he won the admiration of the crowd.  His dance partner was the talented Maggie Darlington.

Capsule judgment: “Riverdance 20” is an innovative and exciting blend of dance, music, and telling of tales that well-deserves the large audiences flowing into the Key Bank State Theatre. 

The show runs through February 18.  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to


Dance Cleveland and Tri-C
March 17, 2018, 7:30 PM, Ohio Theatre
“Che Malambo,” 14 powerful Argentine Gauchos stomping, drumming and dancing.
Tickets:  Call 216-241-6000 or go to

Danceworks 2018 @ Cleveland Public Theatre
Inlet Dance Theatre—April 10-12
Double-Edge Dance and Travesty Dance Group—April 17-19
Anateus Dance and Bones Performance Group-- April 24-26
Verb Ballet—May 1-3

Cleveland Ballet
“Alice in Wonderland”
May 11 (1 pm & 11 pm), May 12 (11 am)
Ohio Theatre