The story appears on

Page B2

January 10, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Touch of Irish thrilling China

THEIR faces caked with makeup and wearing track suits over costumes, Kiwi Aislinn Ryan and Belfast-born Brendan Dorris started talking backstage minutes before the curtain went up at the Shanghai Grand Theater. It was their only English-language media interview in China since arriving early December as lead dancers for the Celtic step-dance show Riverdance and they'd performed in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhoushan, Wuhan and Hangzhou.

The Riverdance troupe is about half-way through its two-month, 13-city tour of China and will today complete a seven-performance stint in Shanghai. The tour will culminate in a seven-minute performance on BTV's Spring Festival Gala Show in Beijing in February.

"Overwhelming is a good word to describe China," said Dorris, 27, who briefly visited twice last year to drum up interest in this tour. "Even though we've been here four weeks, I feel like I'm just beginning to adjust. But at the start I was overwhelmed by the people, the traffic."

Ryan, 25, toured around the world with Riverdance for four years and although never in China before this series, she's proud of having done a paper on Chinese history for an arts degree she's just finished in Wellington.

"I was quite pumped to come here and really want to get out and do things," she said in a Kiwi accent softened by her travels. "To come to Shanghai is such a relief for us but I feel really ignorant that I can't speak any Chinese. A lot of things are lost in translation."

The audience reactions to the troupe's thunderous celebration of Irish music, song and dance vary according to venue and location, the lithe, lean and friendly pair agreed, but generally response has been more subdued than expected.

"We're used to big-audience participation, especially in Ireland but particularly in the United States where they go crazy. We were both with the US company so this is a massive change."

While the Riverdance show is a celebration of Irish dance and music, it has a multi-cultural element with Spanish, American and Russian flavors. However the producers have incorporated some Chinese folk melodies to which local audiences have responded warmly.

"I think that while we are taken aback by culture shock when we come here, Riverdance is totally new to Chinese audiences, so to have some familiar songs in the production adds to their enjoyment," said Dorris in his lilting Irish brogue.

"But they definitely come around at the end of the show," he said, noting "phenomenal" Hangzhou audiences. "Maybe it's the custom that Chinese like to appreciate a show while it's going and hold expressions of appreciation to the end."

The Riverdance organization, which normally has only two overseas performing troupes, gathered a China-only ensemble for this tour which involves 60 shows performed by a cast and crew of nearly 50.

The insatiable appetite of the Chinese for most forms of cultural performance and their fundamental appreciation of the arts is strong so it is no surprise that something as unique as Riverdance's frenetic foot-tapping celebration of Irish culture is playing to packed houses.

Including China in its itinerary will add significant numbers to a string of extraordinary achievements by the company since its show debuted in Dublin in 1995: over 10,000 shows, and seen live by over 22 million people in more than 250 venues in 30 countries and regions.

And while China is discovering Riverdance, the cast and crew are having eye-popping experiences seeing the country. "What I really find so crazy about China is the massive contrasts," said Ryan who started Irish dancing at age four and reckons she's performed in over 3,000 Riverdance shows.

"Even wandering out of our hotel around Yuyuan Garden to the old town, we walked up an alley way where they had the laundry hanging out and I thought how is it that I just walked out of a five-star hotel right into this?"

Dorris, a three-year member of the troupe, is appreciative of the global perspective touring has given him, although he was phased out by what a small world it can be when he hit the nightlife.

"We went to JZ's jazz club and I noticed that the guy performing was someone I'd met randomly the last time I was in Shanghai. We remembered each other and I really freaked at that ? like how is that possible in this huge city."

For all the unique experiences they've had - Ryan was a member of the 10th anniversary Radio City Music Hall performances in New York that die-hard Riverdance fans still revere - each has an eye on future careers.

Dorris, who's been Irish dancing since age 12, has a history and politics degree, feels like a bit of an ambassador for Ireland in his current role and would like to work in foreign affairs. Ryan will do postgraduate study in history at Victoria University in Wellington and eventually wants to become mayor of the city.

In the meantime, they're enjoying the respite Shanghai offers before step-dancing their way around the rest of China.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend