Riverdance Comes to Connaught – At Last!
Riverrdance comes to Connaught—at last
Note: The following was contributed by an Irish relative in County Sligo who will be a guest contributor from time to time.
After travelling the whole wide world several times Riverdance had its first performance in Connaught last month. I must admit that I am a complete philistine when it comes to music and dance. (My wife gave up on me decades ago as when she puts music on I slope off into the garden or to my computer).
I had seen Riverdance on television and my daughter reminded me that that I also saw it in Dublin several years ago but as it was so near and there was a birthday about we went to see a performance in Castlebar. What struck me was how well the first act evoked our Celtic heritage. In a review, when it first started, the scene where Michael Flatley rushes out to challenge the drums was described (and I quote from memory) “…with the braggadocio and super confidant bombast of a Celtic chieftain going into battle”. The Riverdance itself struck me for the first time as echoing the “buaileadh sciath” by which the Celtic tribes challenged their enemy before battle. The literal translation is “beating the shields”. This was done in rhythm and all together and interspersed with their war cry e.g. they would all beat together three times and then shout
Ó h-Éilidhe Abú
( Oh Hey-lee Ah-boo)
Healy for ever
( This translation does not give all the nuances in Abú which also includes
Healy Never Beaten
Healy All Conquering).
Celtic warriors were usually armed with a sword, shield, helmet and two javelins and apart from a leather belt or bandolier they fought naked which gave them all sorts of opportunities to incorporate rude gestures in their “buaileadh sciath”
The second half I found less easy to interpret. It is obviously and rightly a celebration of Irish America but what struck me mainly was that we had the music and dance of two world powers, America and Russia, and a former world colonial power, Spain, in supporting roles to our music and dance. Robert Emmet’s words on the scaffold in 1803 come to mind “When Ireland takes its place among the nations of the earth then, and only then, shall my epitaph be written”.
Even after the eleven or twelve years they have been on the road it was a superb spirited performance and we both thoroughly enjoyed the evening. They have been wonderful ambassadors for Ireland. Do the Chinese think that the Irish are a nation of good looking young people, beautifully dressed, superbly athletic and with amazing and elegant skills in their own unique music and dance.
The mind boggles. What if Michael Flatley had performed the drum dance authentically dressed as a Celtic chieftain.