‘Riverdance’ at The Lyric by Amanda Gunther

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The thunderous sound of the river as it rises to greet the sun, the moon, and all that is in-between, embodied by dances and voices of yore is making one final journey before flowing to an end. After sixteen years of touring through the US – Riverdance says farewell to audiences across America as its tour comes to a close. On this final tour it made a stop in Baltimore at the prestigious Lyric Opera House for two nights of incredible entertainment. Composed by Bill Whelen and directed by John McColgan, this sensational theatrical dance performance has been seen by over 22 million people in over 40 countries. It has all the elements of fantastical entertainment – incredible live music, stunning dancing unlike anything you’ve ever seen before – and if you’ve never had the chance to see it here in North America – your final days are closing in.

'Harbour of the New World – Oscail an Doras (Open The Door)'. Photo courtesy of 'Riverdance.'

It starts with a simple set, the portal to another dimension; and yet there is something deeply profound about this simple wooden frame. As the lights dim to darkness and the fog pours up from within the portal a rich haunting sound of a mystic time centuries ago fills the air – and a deep rich voice over begins the tale. The people of the river emerge in subtle shadows through the mist and suddenly the stage is filled with dancers all waiting to begin. It is a breath taking spectacle that enchants the eyes and ears as it unfolds.

The dancers of Riverdance are sure to astonish you with their incredible footwork. Known for their heavy footed tap work, these performers beyond incredible with the two hours of dancing, mixed with a few songs and some native Irish instrumental sounds. The dancers never lose momentum. They are constantly in motion and their bodies are filled with a passionate spirit that translates to the audience through the rigidity of their body as they dance. Their torsos are erect their feet flying as if they were separate entities; it is a fascinating dance to watch. In the symbolic opening dance number “Reel Around The Sun” the dancers are motivated with a lively exuberance, celebrating the light and warmth that comes from the shining orb above.

These dancers are constantly moving as if they were only one dancer – perfect synchronization, never missing a step. There are moments when despite the number of people on stage you can see just one spirit moving between them – flowing naturally as they step in time with each other person. There is never a dull moment when they move.

'American Wake.' Photo courtesy of 'Riverdance.'

Friday evening’s performance was lead by principle dancers James Greenan and Alana Mallon. Greenan is full of fire and panache as he spins his body around the stage; faster and faster to a level of intensity that is indescribable. Greenan leads the males down the portal stairs in “Thunderstorm” and their tapping is so ferocious that as they slowly move and expand into a v-shape it actually looks like the stage is expanding to accommodate them rather than them spreading out across it.

The female dancers seen in “The Countess Cathleen” are airy and light on their feet, soft tapping and flitting about with a sprightly essence as if they were whimsical wisps of fantasy that found their way to the stage. This number is accompanied by soft tinkling chimes and then Mallon performs a beautiful enticing solo dance as the countess character.

And the awestruck sensations of watching the many dancers perform does not stop by simply watching them. Aside from hearing the thunderous tap of their heavy shoes as they dance, they are often accompanied by a lively fiddle or boisterous bagpipe. The five orchestral members of this touring company are nothing short of sensational. Matt Bashford takes to the Uilleann Pipes during “Caoineadh Chù Chulainn” a mournful ballad that is both haunting and calming.

“Harbor of the New World-Trading Taps” presents the audience with a duel of sorts between Fiddler Niamh Nì Charra and Saxophonist Dave McGauran. Each of the musicians gets a chance to shine in this number, going head to head as the bright carnivale of the dance of the poor is played out by modern tappers Benjamin Map and Jason E. Bernard. These two tappers go head-to-head with Greenan and two of his supporting dancers trying to choose a style, the classic Irish tape that is featured throughout the show or the more loose freestyle that Map and Bernard present as their own. It is a light-hearted competition airing on the side of amusing and fun with Charra’s fiddling siding with Greenan and the McGauran’s sax taking up arms with the tapper boys.

The amount of dedication seen by these performers is nothing short of astonishing and the finale brings the audience to its feet for several follow-up curtain call impromptu dances by the entire company. It is a masterpiece on the stage.

'Reel Around The Sun.' Photo courtesy of 'Riverdance.'

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.

Riverdance has left Baltimore’s Lyric Opera House and has only seven performances left in the run— one of which occurs in Salisbury, MD and four of which will be taking place at Wolf Trap National Park For the Performing Arts. To purchase tickets for these remaining shows please see the website.

For more information about sensational shows coming to the Lyric Opera House, please visit their Calendar of Events.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3VTLPXpIMT0

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Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.