RIVERDANCE Brings 20th Anniversary Tour to NJPAC This Month
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) is proud to present the international Irish dance phenomenon is back by popular demand! Riverdance captures the imagination of audiences across all ages with an innovative and exciting blend of dance, music and song with five stellar performances! Drawing on Irish traditions, the combined talents of the performers propel Irish dancing and music into the present day, capturing the imagination of audiences across all ages and cultures in an innovative and exciting blend of dance, music and song. Of all the performances to emerge from Ireland - in rock, music, theater and film - nothing has carried the energy, the sensuality and the spectacle of Riverdance. Friday, April 22, 2016 8:00 PM, Saturday, April 23, 2:00 PM & 8:00 PM, Sunday, April 24, 2016 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM at Prudential Hall.
During the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, Michael Flatley and Jean Butler danced a seven-minute Irish dance routine for the interval act, which was seen by 300 million viewers worldwide. The performance was so well-received that it was expanded into a full-length stage show, titled Riverdance.Riverdance premiered in Dublin in February 1995, hitting the North American stage for the first time in 1996 at Radio City Music Hall. Since then, it won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Recording and played on Broadway from 2000-2001. The show toured 46 countries across six continents and will return to NJPAC with a 20th anniversary tour for five performances, from April 22-24. During Riverdance's last engagement at the Arts Center, in April 2008, it set a box office record in sales for a multi-performance residency at NJPAC. "Riverdance combines world-class dance with the theatricality of 21st century lighting, set design and special effects to create a mesmerizing performance that's great for families," says NJPAC Executive Vice President and Executive Producer David Rodriguez. "So given its anniversary, and the interest in Irish dance that has permeated our mainstream culture, it was appropriate to bring it back." Associate Director Padraic Moyles calls the 20th anniversary tour "the strongest show we've ever had.
"I think there's an understood value to the brand that you know you're always going to get the best and I think that's why there's still an audience there," says Moyles, an 18-year-veteran of the show. Riverdance features a series of songs and dance numbers that depict Irish legend while including other non-Irish dance forms, such as flamenco, tap and Russian dance. It is directed by John McColgan and composed by Bill Whelan. In addition, it contains set design by Robert Ballagh, costumes by Joan Bergin, lighting by John Comiskey and sound by Michael O'Gorman. While changes include updated scenic design, costumes and a new dance sequence, Moyles says Whelan's score remains untouched. "What's said so often about Riverdance is that it's timeless," he observes about the score. "The music in itself I think is phenomenal." Senior Executive Producer Julian Erskine says the anniversary tour is "brighter, fresher (and) newer than it was." Included in this rejuvenation is a new number, "Anna Livia," named for James Joyce's personification of Dublin's River Liffey in his novel Finnegans Wake. "Anna Livia" replaces "Oscail an Doras" (Open the Doors) and is an all-female, a cappella hard-shoe dance. The first new number created for Riverdance in almost 14 years, "Anna Livia" features choreography by John Carey and rhythms and additional text by Whelan. Although the male dancers have an all-male hard-shoe number - "Thunderstorm" - before "Anna Livia," the women did not have the same opportunity to let their hard-shoe skills shine. The women frequently dance in ghillies, or soft shoes, a black leather shoe that resembles a ballet slipper. The hard shoe features a dense heel that makes an audible click by hitting the floor or another heel, enabling dancers to create loud, powerful rhythms with their feet. "You can close your eyes and still be entertained," says Erskine of the rumble. The number also features a newly designed wardrobe by Bergin, the Emmy Award-winning costumer for The Tudors. Riverdance has updated its scenic design to keep pace with advances in technology. While Ballagh's paintings have always been projected behind the dancers, animation will be incorporated as well. Bergin has updated several other costumes in the show to give them a contemporary flair. Accommodations in fittings were also made for the more athletic, muscular bodies of the cast. Erskine attributes the changing physiques of the company members through the years to Riverdance's role as the first Irish dance show, which produced professional Irish dancers. An ensemble of pros - not dancers who performed Irish dance in their spare time - meant the creative team not only had to take another look at costuming, but emphasize proper nutrition and health awareness. "Before Riverdance, there was no such thing as an 'Irish dancer,'" Moyles says. "You couldn't make a living out of it. It was a competitive, amateur hobby." Riverdance has brought the popularity of Irish dance to a worldwide audience. According to an article by Irish Central, Riverdance has been seen by over 25 million people in 465 venues around the globe. It has traveled 700,000 miles, required 15,000 hours of rehearsal on tour, and even stocked 14,000 dance shoes. FeisWorx.com, a site where Irish dancers gain information about amateur competitions, counts eight dance schools in New Jersey alone. But the art form is not just popular with those who have ties to the Emerald Isle. Moyles says Riverdance's story is relevant to any culture that connects with themes of oppression and leaving home for a new opportunity.