The dancing in this show is mesmerizing, the precision exquisite. The principle male dancer glided onto the stage with such fluidity it seemed as if he were floating on air. He leapt and landed like he had no body mass at all. He was truly breathtaking to watch. The principle female dancer, though perhaps not quite as fluid, was equally precise and captivating. Both dancers were flawless and you couldn’t help but watch their every move.
Having said this, it left me wondering why it took so long to develop that audience-performer connection so critical to live performances. I blame it on first impressions.
It’s truly unfair, especially to live performers, that our mushy, conclusion-jumping brains fool us into believing we know what’s what before fully understanding the bigger picture. Last night’s audience was lethargic at best for a good portion of the evening. I had to wait until at least half way through the second act before someone could muster up enough energy to kick the back of my chair, which is standard fair at the QE. Here’s what I think happened.
When the lights came up and the music started the performers filled the stage dancing an incredibly difficult piece that required mind-boggling precision. Everyone was beautiful, fit, and concentrating like hell on what they were doing, but nobody was smiling: not one. In fact, many of the dancers looked downright angry (they had a lot on their minds). This may not seem like a big deal but pair that with vision obstructing screens and obnoxious strobe lights and that coveted first impression connection hardly stood a chance.
It doesn’t seem fair but we, as entitled and demanding as we privileged humans can be, do it all the time. Smiles equal I like you already and I can tell you’re probably a wonderful person and good at what you do. Frowns equal you better believe you’re going to work for it.
Fortunately about half way through Act One things started to change. The male dance troupe began to draw a reaction out of the crowd with the physicality of their dance and as they moved around the stage it kind of looked as if they were smil... almost.
It was a start but it still seemed like we were waiting for something to happen. It wasn’t until the singers came on with the couple dancing in the forest that things really started to energize. The expressive faces of the dancers and the homologous action of the singers began to knit an audience connection. Those sparks were ignited minutes later by the pure joy the musicians emitted during their subsequent solo performances bouncing around like they were having the time of their lives. And they were smiling! The principles too began to smile and later the rest of the performers joined in. The payoff was immense.
The audience began to respond physically, moving in their seats to the beat of the music, and verbally with exclamations of awe. They were attached at the hip, fused to the floor, clamped to the workbench: the connection was made.
Act Two was a lot lighter than the first half of the show and the audience bought in immediately giving the performers their full attention. It was also a lot more eclectic in performance with solos, songs, and dances from around the world. One of the most memorable highlights was the dance-off between the Irish dancers and the American dancers: a kind of Despicable Me 3 without the knockout. It was fabulous!
The finale was stunning and so technical it’s insane to think humans can actually do that with their bodies. It goes on for-e-ver but who cares? It’s so much fun and we’re all up dancing anyway so go home if you want to, this is Riverdance!
Click HERE for a link to tickets.