'Riverdance' gives farewell show
Published: Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 12:54 p.m.
'Riverdance," the Irish dance phenomenon that single-handedly turned a relatively isolated folk art into an international blockbuster of show business, gives its Phillips Center "farewell" performances Monday through Wendesday at the center. All three shows start at 7:30 p.m.
If this indeed indicates the end of the production's stunningly successful 15-year tour - its producers are announcing this year's run as the "North American farewell" - it ironically features the only remaining "Riverdance" performer to have been with the show since its start.
Niamh O'Conner, an ensemble dancer, is the only continuing troupe member to have performed in the original Dublin production of "Riverdance."
That was in 1995, and O'Conner has been with the production ever since. She holds records for longest tenure as well as most shows performed by any "Riverdance" cast member.
Her husband is Padraic (POUR-ick) Moyles, a male principal. Moyles and O'Conner met by sharing the "Riverdance" stage. But unknown to each other at the time, they grew up in the same Dublin neighborhood, before Moyles' family moved to the U.S. when he was 9.
"Our parents were actually friends before Niamh and I ever met," says Moyles, 29. "So, we're all very happy with the story."
Moyles' own story as an Irish dancer began when he was 3.
"I began Irish dance after my sister," he explains. "When she'd come home from class, she'd be showing mom and dad what she learned. I kind of followed her around, trying to do exactly what she was doing.
"So that's when mom and dad decided, look here - we'll put him into it too and see how he does."
Moyles soon began competing and eventually won the North American dance championships.
"I did my first actual (regionals) over here in America when I was probably about 9, and I got third in it," he laughs. "I actually thought as a young boy dancing that I didn't want to do this," he adds, "but my mom made me stay in there with dancing, and it's the one thing I never thought I'd end up doing for a lifetime."
Moyles' dancing brought him unexpected opportunities. At age 12, he played the title role in the New York Irish Repertory Theatre play, "Grandchild of Kings: The Life of Sean O' Casey," directed by Broadway legend Harold Prince. Years later, Moyles returned to theater as dance captain with Broadway's "The Pirate Queen."
And in 1997, Moyles got an unlikely gig with Shania Twain. "I did a music video with her called 'Don't Be Stupid,'" he says. "She was looking for an Irish dancer, so I was very lucky to be involved. I actually did it previous to ever joining 'Riverdance'."
Moyles joined "Riverdance" at the same that star Colin Dunne, who is featured in the "Live at Radio City Music Hall" film, replaced Michael Flatley in the production.
"Colin changed almost everything from what Flatley did," Moyles continues. "He also created the number which is in my opinion the best in the show, which is 'Trading Taps'."
Moyles is referring to the show's popular men's number - all good-natured bravura - that demonstrates both similarities and differences between Irish dance and its successor, American tap.
Moyles says that the material in "Riverdance" has changed little during his decade on tour, however: "We've changed costumes, lighting, we've had a number or two rewritten or replaced. But the funny thing about 'Riverdance' is that fans actually get mad when we change it."
Big changes await Moyles should the production, which has given 10,000 sold-out performances in 32 countries, come to a close.
"I'd love 'Riverdance' to be permanent, but I can't answer those questions, unfortunately," he says. "Fifteen years is a very long time for any production to be on the road ... if this is your first time, this is probably also your last time to get to see such a great production."
Sarah Ingley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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