A wee bit o’ Irish in the land of Cajuns
I cannot remember the last time I was in the presence of an audience reaction like Friday at the Lutcher Theater. Besides thunderous applause, they hollered, whistled, did everything but stomp their feet and I’m not too sure they were far from that.
It was a packed house on opening night of Riverdance, but the audience sounded like many more than the 1400 capacity. It was a great eruption of appreciation after each number.
As with everything, the show has evolved in its 15-year run. I personally had never attended a performance before, but my companion for the evening and mother, Helen Clark, had seen the show several years earlier and had no recollection of all the vocals and instrumentals. Or, she said the dancing impacted her so much she didn’t remember it. That would hardly seem the case, as they were as strong a part of the performance as any.
Tales of Irish folklore were told in dance and song, intricately woven together with lights and smoke for an outstanding performance.
I was intrigued by an instrument I had never seen before, the Uilleann pipes. They appear to be related to Scottish bagpipes but look different and are played different. Breath is not used to fill a “bladder” but the pipes appear to be pumped by use of the elbow; quite unique.
Irish folk dance is blended with other styles from around the world in the second act.
It is compared side-by-side with American tap in a familiar form of battle. The shoes are not considered tap in Ireland, but “hard shoes,” along with their counterparts, “soft shoes.” It was really interesting to see the two styles side by side to compare their similarities and differences.
The audience was also treated to a Russian dervish by the Moscow Folk Ballet Company and “flamenco” by Rocio Montoya. Ever heard the term “whirling dervish?” Those in attendance can now understand the phrase.
The performances were enjoyed as much by the young as the old. One young man about the age of 8 was stomping and twirling, mimicking the dancers in front of the stage during the intermission; A future principal dancer, perhaps?
There are six principal dancers in the troupe. The two performing Friday were Marty Dowds and Alana Mallon. It was obvious they enjoy performing. Mallon did not have the plastered smile performers learn to keep on their face. It was a genuine smile of pure joy; you could see the sparkle in her eyes. It was the same with most of the dancers on stage. They danced as much for themselves as they did for us.