It has taken only 15 years for a celebration of Celtic dance and music to become a cultural touchstone—and, more than occasionally, a punch line. But while there’s a hipster urge to resist the combination of art and spectacle, maybe it takes actually experiencing Riverdance to understand its enduring appeal.
Since its inception as a segment on the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest and a small show in Dublin, Riverdance has gone on to more than 10,000 performances on four continents for more than 22 million audience members. While the details of those performances have changed, what remains is more than just the long lines of synchronized step-dancers that have become its trademark. Vocal performances and more lyrical dance performances are also a usual part of the performances, providing the palate-cleansers between the furious feet-flying jigs that can leave viewers just as breathless as the performers. And how do they keep their upper bodies so still?