“Riverdance” Brings a Whirlwind of Dance and History to Fort Lauderdale

The 25th Anniversary company of “Riverdance,” photo by Jack Hartin

After 25 years from its original run at Dublin’s Point Theatre, the Grammy-award winning show “Riverdance” was set to begin a North American Tour after a sold-out run at Radio City Music Hall in 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the tour re-started with a United Kingdom run in 2021, making its way back to North America. With a spectacle of movement through Irish history the tour comes to Fort Lauderdale for a weekend run. “Riverdance” brings the concert to the Broward Center from January 13-15th with tickets available here.

With an Irish tourism ad playing as patrons enter the theater, the lights dim and a montage of the many productions of “Riverdance” play on the LED screen. Soloist Cathal Croke steps onto a darkened stage into a spotlight with a low whistle, a traditional folk instrument of Irish origin. The haunting vocals of choral group Anúna evoke centuries of tradition, leading the “Riverdance” company to stomp onto the scene with the massive ensemble number “Reel Around the Sun.” Dazzling high energy and laser-cut precise movements, the troupe dazzles with an iconic number from the original Eurovision performance that launched the company to international acclaim. 

Original dancer Michael Flatley’s transformative solo from over two decades ago is given new life by principal performer Fergus Fitzpatrick, the male lead dancer who commands the stage in a frenzy of traditional movements. Flatley retired from live performance in 2015 and as of writing, has been diagnosed with an ‘aggressive form of cancer.’ Female soloist Amy-Mae Dolan with flaming red curls evokes the original Jean Butler dance by incorporating graceful ballet and pointe into the percussive stepdance in literal split-second quick changes. Costumes designed by Joan Bergin take an update to the emerald-tinged jewel toned dance dresses and leotards by infusing more modern shimmery performance fabrics. 

While paying homage to traditional Irish culture, the show infuses the high-flying leaps of Russian Folk Dance, the sultry flamenco and even modern American styles of pop-and-lock. Performing as their own troupe, Elena Macovei, Stefan Mircea, Ana Turcan and Eugeniu Turcan bring a verve and dynamism to the show in the Dervish style. Solo performer Rocio Dusmet features one of the most dazzling costumes in the entire show with two numbers in the Spanish flamenco style. As Irish influence in America is undeniable, duet performers Lamont Brown and Dharmesh Patel take lead dancers Will Bryant, Matthew Gardiner and Fergus Fitzpatrick to task in a “West Side Story-esque” tap dance battle amongst the backdrop of a New York City skyline. 

Although the show is a loving tribute to the past, “Riverdance” has shown its ability to adapt for a new era and reflect the demographics of the world we live in now. Even though the cast primarily features dancers of Irish origin, the show makes history with Morgan Bullock, the first Black step dancer in the company. During the pandemic, Bullock put her passion for Irish step on full display, tapping her way through songs by Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion featuring them on her TikTok at a time when theaters were shuttered. 

In its massive displays of dance, the show features an ensemble of four musicians that each get their moment to shine as well as move along with the company. More contemporary instruments like the soprano saxophone played by Hannah Riches, are given gorgeous lyrical passages entirely removed from the jazz-centric repertoire of the instrument. Fiddle-player Haley Richardson steps into the show while bowing through a fury of Celtic traditional styles. Winds player Cathal Croke features two instruments not typically seen on the Broward Center stage, the uilleann pipes, an Irish bagpipe-like instrument played with arm movements opening and closing the bellows similar to an accordion. Croke’s uillean pipe feature of “Caoineadh Chú Chulainn ” is a breathtaking lament that truly features the lyrical quality of the traditional instrument. With the show’s extremely percussive quality from the tapping of shoes on hardwood floor to the ensemble of drummers on stage, Music Director and drummer Mark Alfred takes on one of the tallest musical orders. Alfred balances traditional drum kit along with featured moments of bodhrán, an Irish frame drum and even a frenzy of percussion solos tackling chimes, timbales, bongos and the fever-inducing cowbells. 

In its 25th anniversary tour, “Riverdance” continues to dazzle international audiences with a spectacle of history and timeless dance. Boasting over 15,000 performances, performing for over 28.5 million people worldwide and playing over 48 countries across 6 continents, the show stays true to Irish heritage while connecting through the universal language of dance. “Riverdance” plays now at the Broward Center from January 13-15th with tickets available here.

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