'Riverdance' set to reel in visitors at Expo 2020 Dubai

The Irish dancing show continues its month-long residency at the world's fair at Jubilee Park

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Riverdance opened to a standing ovation at Expo 2020 Dubai on Wednesday night after the 90-minute show at Jubilee Park.

Those who didn't manage to procure seats gathered along the side rails to see the captivating show that has drawn crowds wherever it has played around the world.

Riverdance is among the showbiz greats — performed more than 12,000 times to an audience of over 28 million people throughout 47 countries across six continents.

I saw Riverdance when I was a student in Boston. And I never forget that mesmerising experience
Reem Al Hashimy, director general, Expo 2020 Dubai

Twenty-five years on from its memorable debut as part of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest at Dublin's Point Theatre, the show still has audiences rising to their feet in acclaim.

Among the many millions to have seen the show was Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation and director general of Expo 2020, who was also among the audience on opening night.

Ms Al Hashimy, an avid admirer of Riverdance and a driver behind bringing it to Dubai, spoke at the pre-show launch to say that she had seen the show while studying in the US.

“I saw Riverdance when I was a student in Boston. And I never forgot that mesmerising experience,” she said.

“To have them come here to my home city of Dubai, in their stirring and spectacular grandeur, we’re certainly set for a mesmerising evening and many more to come.

“And how proud will I be when I hear more folks talk about how they remember having seen Riverdance in Dubai.”

Celebrated Irish Riverdance comes to Expo 2020 Dubai

Celebrated Irish Riverdance comes to Expo 2020 Dubai

Members of the Riverdance creative team also attended the launch — John McColgan, director, Bill Whelan, composer and Padraic Moyles, the executive director.

“We have been working with this wonderful team [at Expo] to put something special together and didn't want to just take the touring Riverdance show that’s currently on one of the most successful tours in the United Kingdom,” Mr McColgan said.

“We've been in many historic occasions, but we've never been involved in an Expo and we're very honoured and proud.

“From one ancient tradition to another, we bring you the gift of our hearts and our soul, and our music and our dance for the next month.”

The stage and setting are far more spectacular than anywhere that has staged Riverdance before.

The show's audience are used to indoor theatres but Jubilee Park is very much an open area, with pavilions on three sides.

But that enhanced the atmosphere and enjoyment, as the dancers moved with precision and uniformity, at fantastic speed.

Irish dancing, which is at the heart of the show, dates back hundreds of years, often performed in reels or jigs at ceili (pronounced kay-lee) dances.

When placed in a theatrical setting, with up to 40 dancers on stage at the one time, the rhythmic tapping is hypnotic, particularly when accompanied by the familiar Riverdance music.

The story of the show is a journey — moving like a river through various lands, Irish dancers encounter different cultures and music. Flamenco dancers of Spain, Russian Dervish dancers and US tap dancers are all part of what is a multicultural extravaganza.

And that includes the dancers. Virginia-born Irish dancer Morgan Bullock, who ended up being recruited after she became a TikTok sensation, starred alongside others from Spain, Australia and Russia.

The show in Dubai has a Middle East influence, with US-based Omer Faruk Tekbilek playing the ney (a Middle Eastern end-blown flute) and oud, to the delight of locals in the audience.

Riverdance at Expo will continue its month-long residency at the world's fair with more than 20 performances at Jubilee Park over the coming weeks. Full details and dates are on the Ireland pavilion website.

Entry to Riverdance is included in your Expo pass and no booking is required.

Updated: November 07, 2021, 9:35 AM