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Riverdance stays true to Irish culture

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Padraic Moyles’ life has changed in the course of a year.

After dancing for 18 years with “Riverdance,” Moyles has hung his shoes up – somewhat.

Moyles is the associate director of the show and is bringing a new vantage point to the show.

“I know what it’s like to be a dancer,” he says during an interview from Dublin. “The company asks so much of each dancer. They are performing more than 200 shows a year and it can take its toll.”

Riverdance opened in Dublin in Feb. 2005. Since then, the show has visited more than 450 venues and has been seen by more than 25 million people.

The show is rooted in a three-part suite of baroque-influenced traditional music called “Timedance.”

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.

The invocation sung at the start is called “Cloudsong:” it is the rain falling, feeding the river, which springs to life and flows through the land and out to sea. There, the cloud reforms and returns to the land, nourishing, renewing and refreshing it. The constant refrain “uisce beatha” translates as “water of life.” The number builds from the gentle song to the dancers’ feet rhythmically recalling a river gathering force and rushing to the sea.

The choreography reflects this cycle. The riverwoman dances alone, her soft-shoe dance evoking the flow of the river. As she crosses the land, the earth, represented by the male dancer, awakens and bursts forth onto the stage. As the strength of the river builds, so dancers gather, signifying new life and energy, until the full Riverdance line swells to fill the stage as the river meets the sea. Then earth and river dance in harmony, as the water of life renews the land.

The river, from cloud to sea to cloud again, symbolizes the life cycle, and echoes the Irish experience of emigration and renewal: people who had left their homeland and travelled across the sea, returned in the 1990s to enrich Ireland with their talents and experience gained abroad. The show as a whole builds on this idea, also exploring the way people from different lands enrich the countries they emigrate to, bringing with them their own culture, music and dance.

MOYLES: Danced for 18 years with company

MOYLES: Danced for 18 years with company

Moyles says the transition from dancing to being part of the creative team has worked out.

“I love the dance and the preparation of the shows,” he says. “I love the feeling of family that begins to exist and I love the fact that I get to do it still. I think I’m one of the dancers who has stayed the longest and that’s thrilling to still be involved with the production.”

A big part of Moyles’ job is to find ways for the dancers to stay healthy.

This involves him working with sports nutritionists and professional teams such as the Irish rugby team and the Manchester United.

“The performers are doing 300 shows a year,” he says. “Yes the performers take much better care of themselves, but we’ve also got to balance the fatigue that will set in.”

Moyles says the show is more explosive than before and credits a lot of it to the six main dancers.

They are Maggie Darlington, Ciara Sexton, Emma Warren, James Greenan, Bobby Hodges and Jason O’Neill.

“Seeing the way all of these talented dancers are coming together makes me wish I was still dancing,” he says. “But it’s time for a new generation of dancers to carry on the tradition and the stories of Ireland.”

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