BWW Review: RIVERDANCE Amazes at the Hobby Center

BWW Review: RIVERDANCE Amazes at the Hobby Center

I have never written 'tour de force' without a hint of irony. But that's simply the most accurate way to describe RIVERDANCE - THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY WORLD TOUR. The longest-running and most popular Irish-centric international dance act in history has been seen by over 25 million people over 20 years for one reason: it's really, really good.

Riverdance first found its legs as a seven minute interval act in 1994's Eurovision Song Contest, featuring Irish dancing champions Jean Butler and Michael Flatley (aka Lord of the Dance). Soon thereafter, composer Bill Whelan and director John McColgan developed the Irish music and dance short into a full-length modern international spectacle, and took the show on the road.

The performance consists of a series of vignettes, rotating through new-age Irish-inspired ballads, band numbers, and international dance pieces. As expected, the music and singing are perfectly-executed and quite beautiful, but it's the jaw-dropping dance routines that had me wide-eyed and open mouthed throughout the performance.

The Irish dance troupe performs with Olympic-athleticism, dancing in military precision, perfectly in sync. These dancers make The Rockettes look amateurish. It's startling to watch and amazing to behold. Their performances brought up so many questions, including: "how is this physically possible?" and, with a tinge of jealously, "how many carbs do they eat in a day?"

Soloist Marina Claudio Manso's flamenco dance numbers are perfectly polished, slightly sensual, but without the fire that typically defines the style of dance. It's just enough to make the youngest audience members become interested in the dance style, and keep the oldest viewers extremely comfortable. RIVERDANCE - THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY WORLD TOUR is a wholesome, family show.

Absurdly talented American tappers Lamont Brown and Tyler Knowlin inject a healthy dose of lightheartedness and laughter into the performance with their jazz routine. Facing off against principal Irish dancers Kieran Hardiman, Jason O'Neill and Callum Spencer, it's the first time you feel the Irish troupe relax a little, breaking from their traditional upper-body rigidity, as they adopt the American free-flowing style.

The Russian dance troupe's numbers felt a bit odd in this variety show of step dance, but their acrobatics are astounding. Dressed in traditional Russian garb, the men twirl their female counterparts like spinning tops, and leap like gymnasts. It's impossible not to enjoy.

Theatrical productions are typically structured in an arc, with a beginning to establish a status quo or situation, a middle marked by a turning point or change, and an end with a resolution. A well-developed arc gains intensity as it unfolds, and transitions audiences from one emotion to the next. RIVERDANCE - THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY WORLD didn't take me anywhere but happy. Despite a haunting score, complete with uilleann pipes (quite possibly the saddest instrument in the world), I felt happy. I understood that I was intended to feel something else, but witnessing such talented artists singing, dancing and playing in unison just made me feel happy. And in these divisive times, 2.5 hours of straight joy was a downright delightful way to spend an evening.

RIVERDANCE - THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY WORLD TOUR runs Saturday, March 10 at 2:00 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 11 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby Street. Tickets start at $35. For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit or call the box office at 713-315-2525.

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From This Author Pnina Topham

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