Riverdance: Representing Irish Traditional Music
Scahill, Adrian (2009) Riverdance: Representing Irish Traditional Music. New Hibernia Review, 13 . pp. 70-76.
As the archetypal example of the globalization and commodification of Ireland and Irish culture, Riverdance can justly be described as one of the emblems for the now rapidly fading Celtic Tiger. The show also was arguably one of the primary catalysts in the transformation of Irish traditional music from a primarily geographically (and ethnically) situated music into what Mark Slobin has described as an “affinity interculture.” Now, participation in the music is governed by choice, and the possibility of “becoming Irish music” is open to all. This connection between the show and the tradition has been utilized and emphasized in a range of contexts, from tourist promotional literature5 to academic course descriptions and writing.6 The link with tradition has also been adverted to by its composer Bill Whelan himself.7 In the show’s promotional material, Sam Smyth’s description of Riverdance as a “two-hour celebration of traditionalmusic and dance” appears to conflate the two.8 In the same vein, Fintan O’Toole has noted that what “made Riverdance so exhilarating was the sense, not somuch of invention as of recognition,” a recognition that traditional music “defined the cultural space in which the whole show operated.
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