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Release: April 13, 2001

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Advance "Riverdance" phone interviews must be requested through Arts Center Relations, using forms provided to us by the company’s press office. Radio and television appearances while the company is in Iowa City must be requested in advance through the same process. Contact Winston ASAP if you wish to request an advance or in-town interview.)

'Riverdance' Comes To Hancher May 2-6

The 2000-2001 performing arts season at the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium will conclude with eight performances of the international sensation "Riverdance--The Show," a spirited celebration of Irish music, song and dance May 2-6. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 2; at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, May 3; at 8 p.m. Friday, May 4; at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 5; and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, May 6.

Composed by Bill Whelan, produced by Maya Doherty and directed by John McColgan, "Riverdance" focuses on the evolution of Irish dance, as well as its influences on other cultures -- including Russian dance, flamenco and African-American tap dance.

Whelan won a 1997 Grammy Award for "Best Music Show Album" for his original "Riverdance" music and lyrics. The recording, which was number one on the Billboard World Music Chart for more than six months, has sold more than two million copies world-wide, and is certified Platinum in the United States.

The "Riverdance" production has played to sold-out houses around the globe, drawing audiences of more than 11 million, and an additional 6.5 million videos of the show have been sold. The video has become the best-selling video in UK history. There are currently three "Riverdance" companies -- two on tour and one on Broadway in New York.

"Riverdance" had its premiere in 1995 at the Point Theatre in Dublin, and it was an immediate popular and critical hit. Fintan O’Toole wrote, "When ‘Riverdance’ first opened in Dublin, you could hear, even above the pounding feet and the swirling music, the audience gasping for breath. And then an explosion of shouts and whoops as all that air bursts out in a wave of wonderment."

The show’s phenomenal success was predicted by its origin -- a seven-minute intermission entertainment for the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, televised throughout Europe to an audience of more than 300 million viewers.

Response to that brief segment was so overwhelming that the creative team was inspired to develop a lavish, full-length production of Irish music and dance.

Composer Whelan describes the development of the score in reverent terms. "There are two particular problems for the composer writing in the idiom of any given folk or ethnic tradition -- one is social and the other is technical," he has written. "If the composer is Irish and working with modes and forms of traditional Irish music, then the first of these problems is most acute -- and for very positive reasons.

"Traditional music holds a special position in Ireland. To many Irish people it has a defining role culturally and provides an authentic and eloquent link to their past. It is also a rich musical vein that reveals much about Ireland and the Irish -- quirky, mischievous, evasive dance tunes, and dark proud airs that can heal grief and comfort loss. So, when you find yourself in and around music that has such a long tradition, and such delicate associations and nuance, it can begin to feel like being in a church."

Director McColgan says of the dancing, "We wanted to open out the new vision of Irish dance, to have it share the stage with other world dancing. We dreamed that by doing so, these dances would mingle and spark off each other so as to create a performance with its own identity. It would be a performance rooted in the folk memory and arts of the Irish people, yet fresh, unique and exciting, and accessible to people everywhere."

McColgan found his confirmation months later, in New York’s Radio City Music Hall. "In the tension that always precedes curtain up, I looked across the rows of expectant faces of those six thousand, and wondered how they would react," he recalls. "Had we overreached ourselves? Could this show that had come from our hearts really take another city and a different continent by storm?

"In the thunderous standing ovation that followed, we knew what the entertainment world now knows: that ‘Riverdance’ had crossed all boundaries and taken its place as a performance the whole theater-going world would enjoy."

Corporate sponsors for "Riverdance" are Iowa State Bank and Trust Company and Dahl Ford of Davenport, Inc., through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for the Wednesday and Thursday performances are $55, $45 and $30 ($49.50, $40.50 and $27 for UI students). All tickets for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances are $60, $50 and $35.

Ticket sales for "Riverdance" have been brisk. The most extensive choices for seating remain for the Thursday matinee and the Sunday evening performance.

Box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to
(319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at <>.People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number is answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is TDD-equipped for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For UI arts information, visit <> on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>. Learn more about "Riverdance" at <>.