Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

Hey, to try and get talking about music again, I thought it might be interesting to see what you all as musicians and dancers think about the phenomenon that is Riverdance.

Apparently riverdance was great because it brought traditional music to a wider audience, (namely Americans) and everyone fell in love with it, but in my opinion it has done no favours to the dancing scene and not been any great help to the real traditional music either, not just because it isn’t technically traditional, but the drums, rock guitars etc doesn’t do much for the authenticity of the sound either. (apart from the one track heartland)

But that’s the music, the dancing end of it now seems to be more about glamour with a lot of marks going for appearance (as far as I know) dancers seem more concerned about their appearance than their actual art form and what it represents, with all the wigs and hundreds of dollars on the dancing costumes which only last a short while. Hasn’t it become very lucrative indeed! More attention should be spent on the dancing and less on the appearance. This alienates those with smaller pockets who might be just as talented.

But seeing it is doing so well, some people must like it, and my question is why? and do you think it damaged the tradition in any way? im talking more about the dancing tradition here and would our tradition purer if this hadn’t of come about in the first place? I’ll look forward to hearing your opinions!

M

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Re: Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

I think River Dance opened some eyes to folks who had never heard or thought about Irish dance. It seems River Dance incorperated not only Irish, but Spanish and other forms as dance as well, hence the Celtic thing I suppose.

Lord of the Dance came through Oklahoma City a couple of months back and my daughters dance school was able to do a meet and greet with the key dancers. They were very friendly and pleasant to visit with. I think the students went away encouraged, inspired, and excited about step dancing.

I’ll admitt I think it’s a bit flashy, but I don’t see how it could have hurt anything.

I do know that the schools seem to put a lot of stock in the wigs, solo costumes, etc. That comes from the teachers and school masters, which many are Irish. I think most of the students in our local McTeggart school know that the wigs and dresses are for show, not tradition.

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I think Riverdance is thoroughly unthreatening. Never saw it, but I can’t imagine anyone confusing it with traditional dance or music. It’s McCulture, fried up for the masses. What damage could it possibly do? I’m sure anyone who cares at all about "traditional" dance (what does that mean anyway?) recognizes the difference between Flatley’s flashy Celt-a-Cola and a Ceilidh in Cape Breton.

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I’m glad I’m not the only one who does not know exactly what Traditional is. I have my own ideas, which I’ve expressed in the past, but they are my ideas not to be pushed on anyone else.

If you get a chance to see a video of it Fiddler on Vermouth it’s pretty fun. I’ve not seen it in a while but if I remember right they do show the musicians quite a bit as well as the dancers. The was a ullian pipe player that was pretty killer.

Oh yeah

And imagion me a fiddler player praising pipes, the fiddlers were good to, actully, I liked it and will have to watch it again.

Riverdance and Lord of the Dance is what brought me into the Celtic music thing — watching it on TV… and now i’m playing the (highland…) pipes, the bodhran, whistles, and looking into the uillean pipes…. and i’m only 14. craaazy… so anyways though i agree with you about the "lucrativeness" (?) — not really traditional — and the showy crap, there’s still the magic of the celtic music that hides beneath. Hope that made sense.
-mark

Re: Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

I agree with M

Re: Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

Next Question - same answers: Are the Corrs a blessing or a destroyer…..????

I think the Corrs are a good example: they have an irish heritage whatever they did with it on their recordings. and I know young people who bought a bodhran and took some tuition after they have seen a Corrs video on MTV

I agree with kerri: the lord of the riverdance stuff looks like fast culture that probably ruins the taste of many people ….. surely most of them never had the chance to build up taste (I don

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But I see the point about them being bad in a way. I dont really care either way - I was playing trad before riverdance and I’m sure I’ll continue long after. But imagine a load of young musicians who aspire to playing music like the Corrs ;-P

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Re: Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

I think that if you keep things in perspective, there’s no harm in enjoying Riverdance for what it is - a show that borrows extensively from various traditions and incorporates them into a spectacle. I really like the music and the dancing from Riverdance, but I’m certainly under no illusions about whether or not it’s "traditional" ,whatever that means ;

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I quite liked watching riverdance, didnt like the music particularly - but I’m a musical snob…I thought it was a great dance show, loved the spanish bits etc - I’m not threatend by it at all.

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Coors

Definitely! Much hotter than Michael Flatley. :-)

Re: Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

Yeah - thats why they get away with it! I dont think many boys are actually paying attention to what they are playing ;-)

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Re: Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

=> bb: The Corrs? I don

Re: The Corrs

One thing that really bothers me is the general Irish intollerance for the corrs. A lot of views on them are that they are just popular because they include three good-looking, young women (and a good-looking fella). Meanwhile the same people who take them down becaues of their pop appeal and supposed ‘lack-of-real-talent’ think that Britney Spears et. al. are fabulous. Do people have to be bad looking before they can be deemed musically good in pop music? Why do so many Irish people allow American music ‘products’ be culturally ok while they feel that their equally or more tallented Irish counterparts (i.e. The Corrs, Westlife) to need to be taken down a peg or two?

Coors

Maybe just the usual intollerance with success? Same reason we in Brasil keep bashing our Football team (even though they went straight to the finals and scored more goals than any other team). Maybe the Irish are even more intollerant of people that show off. :-)

How about U2? Are they generally liked out there?

Re: Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

Well, I can only really speak for belfast. I know alot of people that really respect them for the efforts they’ve made in order to play in the north. A lot of other bands just won’t play, whether for lack of a suitable venue, or just because of the issues they have to deal with up there. U2 totally changed their whole European Tour in order to play Beflast and always makes an effort to make their concerts special. However, they tend to make some strong political statements that aren’t as appreciated in certain instances. Also, although U2 is Irish, there’s not the same hometown feel for them in the north (although this is true with the Corrs as well). They’re visitors up there. The Corrs are from Dundalk which is culturally a lot closer than Dublin.

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Of course, there’s a lot of us here in the States who want to shrivel up and die when people call Britney Spears and all that sort of stuff "American Music" like that’s all we put out.

Oddly enough, almost everyone I personally know hates Britney Spears’s music and likes The Corrs’s (there’s some teenagers of my acquaintance who like both). Go figure. I like some of the Corrs stuff (though admittedly not a lot of it, and almost all only stuff with strong trad roots), and can only take one or two songs of Spears before I break out into hives. Of course, I feel the same way about Tracy Chapman. Nothing truly wrong with it — just not my cup of tea.

Zina

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Tracey Chapman is a Total Legend!! I love her stuff ;-)
I wasnt refering to the Corrs as a ‘pop’ outfit - more about the tunes they put on their first big album and how they were played etc. Anyhow Britney spears is sooo untalented its scary ;-))

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Re: Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

searai, I think I know who you’re talking about when you say "some people bla bla bla hate the corrs bla bla britney spears bla bla"… I have discovered the REAL motivation behind a certain group of young Irish boys’ love of Britney Spears is comedy. They KNOW she’s bad. (Unfortunately I guess they also think she’s hot.) They think it’s funny to adore her the same way I think it’s funny to adore Hindu musicals. They’re so very far removed from my own identity I can laugh and point and be baffled by the twisted, violent story lines and dozens of costume changes per scene without feeling personally embarassed that my country puts out such schlock. With Celine Dion, on the other hand, I feel complete patriotic humiliation. I think the Corrs (although I never even heard of them before I met you, searai, and I’ve still never heard their music) must be a similar national embarassment to our young Irish friends.

Coors

They’re not like Britney, they’re actually pretty good. The girls do some ITM from time to time, whistle and fiddle and legs, better than Riverdance a little. Their songs are typical European cool, not like Britney at all, and probably not the average thessesion.org member’s cup of tay. The only Britney Spears (B.S., how appropriate) thing i’ve liked is "Stronger" (maybe just because i haven’t heard it too many times). I much prefer U2, though it’s hard to see how they can stay honest when they’re swimming in money. But there are worse things than Coors out there.

So… whatever.

Re: The Corrs

It’s seems like a rather meaningless thing to discuss wether the Corrs are good or bad for ITM. They are just doing their thing. And "their thing" is mainly mainstream popmusic with some influences from traditional music. And who can argue or blame them for that?
Lars

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Lars, you put it better than my "so… whatever". But this whole thing started with Riverdance which, for a lot of people, represent "Irishness". The question was: is this bad? The consensus seems to be it’s mostly harmless, and in some cases it has been shown to attract people that later get involved with The Real Thing.

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I think a lot of us here at the Session came in "sideways" to ITM. A starting point for me was Jethro Tull and early Zeppelin, whose combinations of rock and folk influences knocked me off. It’s surely a long way from that to "true" trad. music, but it is a starting point. I guess that Riverdance can be a starting point as well.
And for the definition of ‘tradition’ (mentioned earlier in this thread):
Tradition is always a living thing. But it is also something that is relatively constant. Beside tradition there is something that we could call "fashion". It could be Riverdance or playing Didgeridoo at Sessions. Or the "invention" of the Irish bouzoki. Most of these fashions are just whims that disappar after awhile. But some of them stays and become part of tradition - which they certainly weren’t when they first came.
So today the presence of bouzokis, citterns, octave mandos etc is so natural that you sometimes wonder how ITM ever could have been without them. And the playing style developed by Irvine, Lunny & co is 100% part of the tradition. But as far as I understand was this something completely new in the seventies.
So maybe part of this Riverdance thing will become part of tradition. We won’t know

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I don’t know how Britney Spears, the Corrs and U2 got into this thread but getting back to the original question, I feel that anything that gets more people playing traditional music or dancing cannot be all that bad. This has been the route for many people to the tradition down the years whether they were inspired by the Dubliners, the Chieftans, Horslips, the Bothy Band, etc. Once hooked, most will develop a taste for the "real thing" and seek out the music of the likes of Joe Cooley, Paddy Carty, Tommy Peoples, Kevin Burke, Johnny Doherty, Padraig O’Keefe, etc.

As to changing the tradition - I don’t think so. The tradition is quite robust and most musicians have an instinct for what fits in and what doesn’t. An example of this would be which of the two very successful and innovative bands from the seventies, namely the Bothy Band and Horslips will become a permanent part of the tradition. Today, 30 years later, if one wants to listen to some traditional music which is sure to give inspiration I think I know what most people’s choice would be - music such as the Kesh jig set or the Salamanca set delivered by the likes of Paddy Keenan, Matt Molloy, Tommy Peoples and the rest of that talented group is timeless so that my money would definitely be on the Bothy Band.

In conclusion my view is that innovations such as Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, groups such as Horslips, etc are to be applauded for attracting more people to the tradition. They are not a threat as they can be seen for what they are - an aspect of contemporary (not traditional) Irish entertainment.

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What I’ve seen as a result of Riverdance is first, when it was being aired on PBS all the time, lots of gigs, the two major CD outlets were stocked full of everything celtic they could get their hands on, the racks were probably 15 feet or longer. I was gigging more than I really wanted to be. Since it went off the air, the CD shelves at the retailers are 1/4 or less the size, even being removed for a short while at one. I am finding few gigs that pay enough to bother with.

The local Irish pub/restuarant that hosts two different sessions reports similar, in general they are selling less than when Riverdance was on the air.

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I dont know about where you are all from, but where I’m from alot of people start with the riverdance thing/lord of the dance/celtic dreaming etc, and never work out the trad thing at all. Thats fine, Ive no problem with that as such except when you have a really nice session and a load of people coming along with their ‘Celtic Vibe’, bongos, egg shakers etc, and complaining that we are stuck up/rude/horrible for not wanting to play celticish music, when we have all learned for years, mostly the hard way of what not to do in a trad Irish session. Sorry if I offend anyone but it really drives me up the wall. All the people I know and play music with regularly have been playing since before Riverdance, and they are really good musicians as well.

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Re: Riverdance - Destroyer !

For my sins, I watched the Riverdance team on TV. I am a musician so of course, I noticed everyone jump in the air and the taps continue sounding, and who could fail to notice the band applauding after the music had re-started.
Could someone explain what the Gospel singers had to do with it?.
What amused me the most was when the big drums came out (as played outside some churches on a Saturday evening to disturb Mass). Do they have an anti-Catholic bias ?.
I was not convinced.

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Its funny you should say that - I know someone who was on tour with riverdance - he said that at a crucial moment when the main guy was doing a solo he fell - and the taps went right on tapping, he pretened to tap the floor with his hands but it was really obvious and the lads in the band were hysterical ;-0)

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Now THATS a good story!! he hee…..
Jamie

Re: Riverdance - Blessing or destroyer ?

yeah how about this one - someone I know was flown half way across the world - put up in a fancy hotel for 6 weeks and ended up miming an instrument that they didnt even play ;0) Gotta love that….

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Irish Dance

Firstly: a dress for hundreds of dollars — I wish! Try $1,000.

The wigs. When you’ve put the curlers in your daughter’s hair for ten feishes, you’ll thank God for wigs! And the requirement for curls has been around a long time before Riverdance.

If you haven’t had the pleasure, go to an Irish dancing feis. True, the costumes and make-up have gotten way out of hand. However, look past all that at the skills the competitors have learned. A hornpipe performed by a senior dancer in the Preliminary or Open categories will leave you breathless. Add to that the cameraderie and sense of accomplishment through hard work for all of the dancers who stick to it, and I think you will agree this is one of the best "sports" for young people to get involved in.

And if Riverdance encouraged its popularity, no problem…

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When I saw the original Riverdance video a years ago, I was my last couple of years in high school. It inspired me to try Irish step dancing for a year and after that, now that I’m in the workign world and not as broke, I started taking fiddle lessons. I was so impressed with Irish and celtic folk music that I thought to myself that it’d be neat to be a fiddler. My background is not Irish or anything close but I think Riverdance - although it became tacky in its later incarnations, was a good vehicle to introduce some aspects of the Irish traditions to a wider audience. And hopefully, once their interest is sparked, like mine was, they will delve into the real deal.