The final curtain is coming down – “Riverdance” is saying goodbye to America and the tears are flowing.
Some 16 years after Michael Flatley and Jean Butler first wowed the world with the unique take on Irish dancing, the show is almost over for US audiences.
Currently in the middle of a 82 city farewell American tour, “Riverdance” is coming to an emotional end as senior producer Julian Erskine confirmed to the Associated Press.
“To be at the back of a hall with the audience jumping to their feet at the end of the show after all these years, it’s just so gratifying and just so pleasing,” was how executive producer Erskine described a recent show in California.
“It’s certainly emotional to be saying goodbye.”
Set to wrap up in the US this June, “Riverdance” has been touring the North American continent continuously since 1996, often with two shows on the road.
It’s no easy task as the touring company includes six principal dancers, 18 troupe dancers, a live five-piece band, flamenco dancer and two American tap dancers, one of whom is also a baritone soloist.
Now South America, India and China offer new audiences for the show that revolutionised Irish dance.
Principal dancer Padraic Moyles, on the road with Riverdance since 1997 and co-starring in the show with wife Niamh O’Connor, has paid tribute to the American audiences.
“Anybody who joins the show from here on out and doesn’t get the opportunity to perform it in America, will be missing something,” said Moyles.
“I hope that someday, whether its 10 years from now, it does come back so that people get to experience that reaction again.”
“Riverdance”, the brainchild of former RTE duo Moya Doherty, John McColgan and Bill Whelan, first hit the stage as the interval act at the 1995 Eurovision song contest in Dublin. Such was the phenomenal reaction, that a show was born.
Erskine added: “The timing couldn’t have been better. We just picked up on a vibe that was happening in this country and we suddenly felt, ‘Maybe it’s not so bad being Irish. Maybe we don’t have to be the butt of every joke.’
“It couldn’t have happened five years earlier. It just wouldn’t have happened. I don’t think we would have had the courage to." An estimated 22 million people have witnessed “Riverdance” since that beginning, with the show seen in 40 countries, from Red Square to the Great Wall of China.
The two hour show made its American debut in 1996 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and packed the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway for 18 months in 2000-2001.
Erskine told AP that the show’s success is down to the fact that it isn’t a cookie-cutter experience.
“It wasn’t pulled together to make money, but to blow the dust off Irish folk music and dance,” he said.
“That purity of creation shines through. Plus, the sound seems to touch a very human part of us.
“That pounding out of rhythms I suppose is quite primal. That goes back into all our cores, no matter where we’ve come from. The beating of drums is how we first communicated.”
Moyles believes that the strong immigrant culture in America has helped the show attract audiences.
“Many of them have their own folk dances. They probably see their own heritage within “Riverdance”, he said.
Chicago, Kansas City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Boston all feature on the farewell American tour which will conclude at Wolf Trap National Park in Vienna, Va.