Hurriedly arriving with their publicist amid the busy lobby of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the stars of Riverdance greet me with warm smiles and ready apologies for the long wait. They’ve come from a shoot with a major publication and are nearly an hour late.
Wearing a black V-neck blouse, light-wash jeans and black ballet flats, 23-year-old Chloey Turner is the picture of a young dancer at the height of her dancing career: petite, blonde, slender, full of energy but still slightly shy as if she still isn’t used to the attention. In contrast, 31-year old Padraic Moyles, dressed in a dapper gray blazer, white shirt and jeans, is the first to extend a handshake, offer a smile and start the conversation.
Born in Dublin, Moyles (his first name is pronounced ‘Po-ric’) and his family migrated to the United States when he was nine. He has been a dancer for Riverdance productions for the past 13 years and his wife is part of the dance company. He learned Irish dancing from his older sister before studying it under renowned teacher Danny Golden, and going on to win regional and national championships. In 2004, he became a teacher of Irish dance. In 2006, he performed in the Broadway production of The Pirate Queen.
'Imagine dancing rigid from the top of your head down to your back and all the movement comes from the waist down’
Meanwhile, English-born Turner says she is living the dream. She got into dancing because of Riverdance. She first saw it on television in 1994, and the following year she attended her first Irish dancing class at the age of eight.
For the benefit of neophytes, this pop-culture phenomenon began at the Eurovision Song Contest, a lighthearted affair that’s been a mainstay of European television for decades and launched Abba’s career in the mid-’70s. While Abba was a contestant, Riverdance was initially performed as a seven-minute interval act.
When asked to describe each other, Turner is full of praise for Moyles – how she first saw him perform in Riverdance, how technically gifted and generous he is, just like a teacher. Moyles returns the compliment, saying Turner is a highly motivated dancer who has that ability to understand her character in the show and naturally translates that into her dancing.
I ask Moyles what he believed was so fascinating about Irish dancing. Could it be the sweeping Celtic music that brings a medieval village fête to mind? Or is it the synchronicity of the footwork choreography? Moyles believes it is all of the above. It’s a dance form that requires discipline, motivation and athleticism. ‘Imagine dancing rigid from the top of your head down to your back and all the movement comes from the waist down, creating a rhythm with your feet.’
'You don’t need to be Irish to do this.
I’m British, and it didn’t naturally come to me'
The storyline of Riverdance itself focuses on the evolution of Irish dancing. He says there are many theories as to its origins, but the most popular is that it began when Ireland was invaded by the British. Since partying was frowned upon by the British soldiers, people would be stomping or tapping their feet on the ground, but from the windows it would appear as if they aren’t doing anything. Moyles thinks that the audience attraction may lie in part to the visual energy and sensuality of the show.
‘The first half of the show begins with its Celtic traditions or the myth and legend of Ireland, while the second half of the show, Departure and Discovery, is about Irish immigrants and how they spread Irish culture to the world,’ Moyles says. ‘There’s a great part in the second half where people can see the differences and similarities of Irish dancing and American tap dancing.’
Turner, who qualified for the world championships of Irish dancing when she was only ten years old, thinks Irish dancing is uniquely simple. ‘There are so many forms of dance which use the upper body. Ours is mainly tough on the legs. There’s synchronicity and the rhythm created by it. You don’t need to be Irish to do this. I’m British, and it didn’t naturally come to me. I think anybody can do this.’
It has been ten years since Riverdance was first performed in Singapore, and the show may not be back for a long time. But Moyles was quick to point out that the world hasn’t heard the last of them. ‘This is the farewell tour in many parts of Asia and North America, but it is not the end of Riverdance. We are going to start tours in other places we haven’t been to before such as China, South Africa and Latin America.’
Riverdance runs from Nov 30-12 Dec at Marina Bay Sands Theatre.