Never missing a beat

The exhilarating Irish troupe Riverdance steps it up in TA, Haifa and Jerusalem.

Riverdance 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Riverdance 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The old joke at the huppa about the ceremonial breaking of the glass being the last time the husband gets to put his foot down in the marriage takes on an extra twist in the case of Padraic Noyles.
As the lead dancer in the worldfamous Riverdance traditional Irish dance and music troupe, Noyles puts his feet down a lot, sometimes at breakneck speed. However, his boss, the one that makes sure he’s not making any missteps, is his wife, Niamh O’Connor, Riverdance’s dance captain.
“I have to get after him sometimes when he’s not lifting his legs high enough, but he’s generally a very good student and I don’t have to berate him that much,” O’Connor joked last month in a phone conversation during a rehearsal break at Dublin’s Gaelic Theater, where Riverdance has performed a summer stint for eight years running.
The Dublin-born O’Connor auditioned for the original production of Riverdance, performing at its world premiere at the Point Theatre, Dublin, in February 1995, and now holding the record for the most dances performed in the show. Noyles joined he troupe two years later and has no regrets about his immediate supervisor.
“Yes, she does have to crack the whip sometimes, but what she’s great at is her constructive criticism,” said O’Connor, who left his native Ireland with his family for New York when he was 10 years old.
“I’ve been in stage and theater since I was 12 in off-Broadway productions. I didn’t really like to dance until I came to Riverdance, but I was made to learn traditional Irish dance by my parent so I would retain some of our culture.
But it was more like I had to do it than I liked doing it. Only when I auditioned for and joined Riverdance did I really fall in love with dancing.”
And the rest of the world has apparently fallen in love with Riverdance. Originally conceived as a seven-minute intermission entertainment for the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest held in Dublin, it has evolved into the most successful offshoot of the kitschy event since ABBA, entertaining 22 million people worldwide since it started touring in 1995.
”Ireland had won Eurovision for the third year in a row, and the producers wanted to do something special, so they decided to attempt to create something special,” explained O’Connor, who recalled watching the segment on TV. “The reaction was so amazing, that the producers decided to expand the piece into a full-length stage production.”
Riverdance has proven so successful that the term “Riverdance style” has been coined to describe any dance troupe that stresses synchronized constant motion, anchored in rapid leg movements that seem to defy gravity.
“What makes the show work is that everybody is doing the same thing at the exact same time. Now that we’ve been around for 16 years, that’s what the world expects, and it’s up to us to live up to those expectations every night.
And Niamh is great about making sure that we’re all in cue with each other,” said Noyles, He adds that having his wife on tour has other benefits as well. “It’s a great support system. When you’re on tour for a long time, it’s nice to have a partner with you at the end of the day.”
Noyles and O’Connor have joined the troupe of 50 dancers, singers and musicians, along with five tons of equipment and lighting, for Riverdance’s shows in Israel, which began Thursday night at the Tel Aviv Opera House. They continue at that venue nightly through September 6 before moving on to Haifa for three shows, September 8-10 at the Congress Center, and winding up with two shows in Jerusalem at Binyenei Ha’uma on September 12 and 13.
Tickets are available through Kastel in Tel Aviv, Kupot Haifa and Bimot in Jerusalem.