Asian, American, Irish, Mexican . . . no matter what the nationality, Riverdance has mass appeal. McColgan isn’t surprised.
“The show has something that transcends cultural boundaries. It can be enjoyed by audiences who don’t need to be Irish, or don’t need to understand Irish culture,” he feels.
“But there’s a primal element in the show that’s to do with the music and the percussive dancing that really excite people. I was talking to the minister for culture in china, and he said this is more than a show; it’s an expression of a country. It’s a country presenting itself in a very proud way.”
The dancers – to date, Riverdance has provided steady employment to over 1,500 dancers, most of them Irish – are always thrilled, McColgan says, to show off their talents. For them – and the musicians who provide the soundtrack – every night’s show can be considered opening night.
“We say to the dancers, remember who you are, and what you represent, and they take great pride in representing their country and their culture. And I think the audiences pick up on that,” McColgan says.
“We say that the performance you give tonight gives you employment in a year’s time because of the people who come to the show and have an exciting experience. When that happens they will want to come back the next time we’re around, and they’ll want to bring a friend.”
That seems to be happening in China already thanks to an overwhelming response to the just completed 12-city tour. The Chinese promoters of the show were so pleased with the end result that they’ve asked McColgan to bring the show back at the end of 2010. They’re also convinced that Riverdance could conduct a long and profitable yearly tour of China for the foreseeable future.
“I think for the promoters it was a breakthrough because they knew we had a strong reaction in Beijing and Shanghai, but the other cities had never had western shows before doing that sort of a tour,” said McColgan.
The Chinese tour was captured for a DVD release this summer which will be titled Riverdance: Live in Beijing. The performances were filmed with hi-def cameras for Blu-ray, which will undoubtedly enhance the experience of watching Riverdance even more.
It’s hard to think of an Irish cultural touchstone that has had a deeper global impact than Riverdance. U2 certainly can stand shoulder to shoulder with the show, but nothing else comes close. For a small country with a population of four million, it’s quite a boast to have contributed not one but two acts with such significant brand recognition.
“If you say Ireland in China people respond with Riverdance and Bono and Roy Keane,” McColgan said – Keane being the controversial but brilliant soccer player who now manages in England.
“Obviously at some point Riverdance must come to an end, but while the show is still entertaining people, and people want to come see it again, we’ll keep doing it.”
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