An instant international phenomenon when it step-danced on the world stage 20 years ago, the Irish music and dance spectacle, Riverdance, is being revamped for a new generation. The 20th Anniversary world tour stops at the Van Wezel for three performances Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 24 and 25. We talked with associate director Padraic Moyles about how the high-energy production, which traces the history of Ireland through music and dance, has influenced cultures around the world.
Moyles is a Dublin native who emigrated to the U.S. with his family at the age of 9, and at age 12 was the principal actor in the Hal Prince off-Broadway production of Grandchild of Kings. He joined Riverdance in 1997, eventually becoming dance captain and principal dancer. After a two-year hiatus starting in 2006, he rejoined the company in 2008.
For ticket information, visit vanwezel.org.
Why do you think Riverdance was such an instant hit?
“Nobody had ever seen it before. Each of the collaborators [who created it] was very clear on the goal: to create a world-class cultural production that had Ireland at the center of it, to tell the story of the Irish people—of making a living under the hardest circumstances, of many of them having to leave their country to have a better life, and of coming back home with new ideas, new accents and new influences that have changed Ireland into a new and modern country. It’s a story that so many people all over the world could relate to.”
Did Riverdance spawn a generation of Irish dancers?
“Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt. Any Irish dance teacher in the world would tell you how big their classes became after Riverdance came out. Now there are traditional Irish dance classes in South America, China, Taiwan, all over the world. We find that absolutely fascinating.”
When were you introduced to traditional Irish dance?
“I started studying when I was 3. My parents did it for fun, they used it for a social outlet. A teacher would come to the house on Friday nights; they’d gather all their friends from the neighborhood and there’d be music and dancing.”
How do you keep revitalizing Riverdance in its 20th year?
“First you do it technically, because technology has advanced so much in 20 years. And we introduce new dances. Particularly, this cast is out of this world. Their athleticism and mental preparation is what make Riverdance today better than it’s ever been. We travel with a company of 64, 36 of them performers. For many of them, they grew up watching Riverdance and this is their dream. It’s amazing to watch them, to see the joy it brings them.”