Dubai: It’s a rapid fluttering of the feet with disciplined upper body strength. Yet, grace and elegance exude in every stomp of the foot and snap of the head, all the while the exhilarating smiles of the skipping ensemble never falter. Falling somewhere between ballet and tap dance, the Riverdance technique is a cultural spectacle that took the world by the storm in 1994. Now, visitors of Expo 2020 Dubai will witness the vibrancy of Irish heritage with a Middle Eastern touch in November.
“I remember as a young girl being enamoured by Riverdance, and to find myself here in the Irish Pavilion celebrating [their launch] at Expo 2020 is a true privilege,” said Reem Al Hashimi, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai, at the official opening of the Ireland Pavilion yesterday, which saw the ensemble break ground in the UAE.
A Middle Eastern rendition
Riverdance had humble beginnings — it was a seven-minute interval performance on the 1994 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin that brought the live audience to its feet in a standing ovation and stunned over 300 million viewers worldwide. Padraic Moyles, executive director of Riverdance, told Gulf News he owes it to the producer couple Moya Doherty and John McColgan for scaling the interval dance to a touring sensation for the last 27 years.
“No matter where we go around the world, there seems to be a connection between Riverdance, its music and its performers, with whatever country we might be in,” Moyles said of the popularity.
In the opening act, leads in glittering green costume effortlessly hop about on their tiptoes to a score that is definitely rooted in Irish folk music. There is the delightful fiddle, tin whistle and Uilleann pipes. When the subtle keys of piano and drums flow into the composition, the audience immediately understands why the timeless Riverdance album by composer Bill Whelan secured a Grammy award.
Celebrating 25 years of Riverdance
Expo 2020 Dubai’s two iconic venues, Al Wasl Plaza and the Jubilee Park, will host a 90-minute Riverdance show from November 4 to November 27. According to Moyles, this is the first time the production will ever perform at a World Expo: “For the first time in our history, we are including Middle Eastern performers in the show, so we have terrific musicians playing instruments unique to this region.”
Though the music starts off mid-tempo, it picks up pace as more and more instruments are added, creating a fuller, richer sound accompanied by brisk tapping. Dancers multiply and spectators collectively hold their breath for the finish line, which comes with a flourish at the climax. Moyles says the 56-member crew is looking forward to another challenge – ‘Riverdance at Expo’ will be void of any intermissions or breaks.
The specially curated team of dancers stands out for its international background, too: “Russia, Moldova, Estonia, Ireland, the UK, Canada, Australia, the USA, Spain… off the top of my head,” Moyles laughed. “Some of them will join us here at Expo and others, who are called our flying squad, are teachers, lawyers, studying to be doctors and are not able to come out of college yet. If we’re lucky, we’ll get them to join the show.”
Learn Riverdance with Padraic Moyles
Former lead dancer with the Riverdance show, Moyles found himself naturally donning the role of a teacher. With 24 years of expertise, he now leads the touring team and is up for extending his rare lessons to the visitors of the world fair in Dubai.
“There are around 52 masterclasses planned across the various district stages on site and elsewhere in Dubai where we will teach people to dance,” he said.
This is your chance to learn the speedy moves from Moyles and his professional crew for free during their 25-day stay. The producer and director hopes that the audience will later converge for the last performance in a thundering Riverdance flash mob on November 27.
And when the ensemble wraps up its visit, it will leave with a newly recruited member, making the lucky addition the first UAE-based cast member in Riverdance’s history. The team will announce the audition dates closer to the event.