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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 17, 2003

(Photo by: Joan Marcus)

'Riverdance' Returns To Hancher March 4-9

"Riverdance," which set the Hancher Auditorium ticket-revenue record in 2001, will return to the University of Iowa venue just before St. Patrick's Day for eight performances, March 4-9. The famed celebration of Irish music, song and dance will be performed at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, March 4-7, and at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 8 and 9.

The best selection of seats remains for the Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday evening performances.

"Riverdance" focuses on the evolution of Irish dance, as well as its influences on other cultures -- including Russian dance, Spanish flamenco and African-American tap dance. A Chicago Tribune review called the show "An explosion of sight and sound that simply takes your breath away," and the London Times described it as "a family evening unlike anything else!"

Composer Bill Whelan won a 1997 Grammy Award for "Best Music Show Album" for his original "Riverdance" music and lyrics. The certified-Platinum recording, which now totals more than two million in sales, was number one on the Billboard World Music Chart for more than six months.

The "Riverdance" production has played to sold-out houses around the globe and to audiences now totaling more than 15 million, and the video of the show became the best-selling video in United Kingdom history.

"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. When a single of the music was released, it jumped to the top of the Irish charts, where it remained for 18 weeks.

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.

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 John 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."

His judgment was confirmed as "Riverdance" indeed took the world by storm, including a run on Broadway that was extended three times, and sold-out engagements that provoked wild ovations in Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany and France. Two "Riverdance" companies are now touring, and the Lagan Company coming to Iowa City takes its name from the river that flows through historic Belfast.

The Sheraton Iowa City Hotel is the corporate sponsor of the "Riverdance" performances, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for the return of "Riverdance" are $55, $45 and $30 ($44, $36 and $24 for UI students and senior citizens, and half price for audience members 17 and younger.

Hancher Auditorium box office business 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. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: .

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:

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,

PHOTOS are available at

OTHER INFORMATION: Interviews are available in advance or during the run. Cameras are welcome at the opening-night performance by arrangement.