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SPRING IN ITS STEP
'RIVERDANCE' PHENOMENON EVOLVES AS IT CONTINUES TO DRAW

After eight years on tour, 18 months on Broadway and with more than 12 million in attendance worldwide, 6.5 million videos sold and a 1997 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album, "Riverdance" is still going strong.

The long-running Irish dance, music and song show was originally conceived as a short intermission segment for 1994's Eurovision Song Contest. Its overwhelmingly positive response from many of the show's 300 million viewers led "Riverdance's" creators -- Moya Doherty, John McColgan and composer Bill Whelan -- to expand that initial segment into a full-length stage production in 1995.

The stage production took off, selling out wherever it played and rocketing the show's original lead dancer-choreographer Michael Flatley to superstar status.

"Riverdance" returns to Buffalo for eight performances Tuesday through Sunday in Shea's Performing Arts Center.

"The show has definitely evolved over the years, with cast changes, costume changes and some new numbers added," said the show's current lead female dancer, Tara Barry. "The show is very high-energy and diverse in its dance forms. It doesn't just concentrate on the one form of Irish dancing. We have Russian folk ballet dancers, a flamenco dancer, three American tap dancers, a choir of singers and a huge band."

Barry, a native of County Cork, Ireland, and a former Irish dance world champion, has been with the show since its premiere. She spent her first four years in the production as a corps dancer and understudy, and in 2000 became one of the show's female leads.

Barry says her North American tour group -- one of two touring companies of the show -- will be nearing the end of its tour when it arrives in Buffalo. Both the North American company and the European company tour from January until June or July and then again from September until Christmas.

"I chill out," said Barry in response to what she does in her off-time. "Most of us go back to Ireland to visit family or take a holiday."

The cast of more than 60 performers includes 30 Irish step dancers with a majority of the dancers coming from Ireland, including Barry's partner, Michael Patrick Gallagher, the male lead in the North American company cast. Barry and Gallagher have been paired together for the past three years, and Barry says she can't dance with anyone else now because she is so used to Gallagher and the rapport they have with each other onstage.

"We used to compete against each other when we were kids, and it still amazes me that now we are paired together in the show," said Barry. "I used to love to watch him dance, and now it is an honor to dance with him."

With its more relaxed interpretation of traditional Irish folk dance coupled with other cultural dance forms and all set to a stellar soundtrack, "Riverdance" has proven it has mass appeal and staying power.

Whether you are a first-time audience member or a veteran of the show, next week's performances at Shea's will have a lot to offer, says Barry. Look for the blond Barry front and center giving notice that the phenomenon of "Riverdance" is still very much alive and kicking.

PREVIEW

WHAT:

"Riverdance"

WHEN:

Tuesday through Saturday

WHERE:

Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St.

TICKETS:

$34.50 to $59.50

INFO:

852-5000

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