‘Riverdance’s’ tale reflects her family’s tale

“Riverdance” just as easily could have been Ciara Sexton’s story.

The lead dancer of the show, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary tour, explained “Riverdance” is about a mood and an emotion.

The first act of the show, which steps into Foxwoods Resort Casino on Feb. 10 and 11, is about departure and leaving home for newer and better pastures.

“Like my parents,” said Sexton, whose family emigrated from Ireland to Britain.

“People were struggling,” said Sexton. “People had to leave (Ireland).”

Sexton explained both parents were born in Ireland. But the family left for Britain because there was no work in Ireland and the economy was so sour there was no hope that this would change any time soon.

Sexton was raised in Britain, but her family’s Irish heritage was not shelved because of their new surroundings.

Sexton said when she was growing up there was no question that she would learn Irish step dancing. Both of her sisters danced. And when Sexton was old enough, her parents dropped her off at step dancing class and said, “Go.”

One of the aspects of Irish step dancing that Sexton enjoys, other than the chance to perform for an audience, is that the form is very social. “That’s something that I fell in love with… That’s why at 29, I’m still doing it.”

There also was something to be said of the enormous pride her parents had in watching her perform and keeping their native Irish culture alive, Sexton said.

Sexton studied dance in college, so she has extended her repertoire beyond step dancing. “I’m quite proficient in modern dance.”

And she uses that skill for another one of her performance ventures, she explained.

Sexton said she will go off and find abandoned buildings. Then she will record herself dancing in that broken space. She then posts the finished product on YouTube.

Sexton said the opportunity to perform modern dance offers her a respite from the more regimental structure of step dancing.

Even though Sexton has had a long career as an Irish step dancer, it still has its challenges, she said, especially within the structure of “Riverdance.”

One of the most celebrated moments during “Riverdance” is when there is a line of dancers all moving as one. That unity of movement, said Sexton, is possible because of the regimental movements and precision of step dancing.

“Our training comes into play (during that moment),” said Sexton. Each night there will be a different combination of male and female dancers. But each group, no matter the combination, must work as a team– and that is possible because of their skills as dancers.

“Riverdance” is celebrating its 20th year but it still pulls in the audiences.

For Sexton, the show’s longevity partially can be attributed to the music performed each night.

“I love the music,” said Sexton. “I never tire of the music.”

“Our drummer (Mark Alfred) is the star of the show,” said Sexton. She said she is often asked by audience members, “Who is the drummer?” Alfred, who has been with the show for 12 of its 20 years “just takes over. He’s a fantastic musician,” said Sexton.

Another key element in “Riverdance’s” 20 years of performances is that “the dance is so joyful,” said Sexton.

And, of course, the show continues to draw crowds because “It’s such a family show,” said the dancer.

For its 20th anniversary, however, there have been some changes, said Sexton.

For instance, Sexton said, the running order of the numbers has changed. The producers have refreshed the costumes. The creative team also has injected some new numbers into the show.

“Anna Livvy,” is one of those new numbers that Sexton loves the most. She said the creators got the number just right. It’s just a group of female dancers singing a capella and dancing on stage. “It’s so hard hitting.”

For audiences looking to buy tickets for the 20th anniversary of “Riverdance,” Sexton said, “Come see our brand new numbers, new costumes, new costumes, (new sets) and music, new cast members— featuring people who weren’t even born (when the show was launched 20 years).”

“Everything is refreshed.”

“It’s an incredible celebration of music, dance, culture, light and sadness,” said Sexton. “It will take you through every emotion. It’s an incredible feeling.”

“Riverdance—The World Anniversary Tour” comes to Foxwoods Resort Casino Grand Theater in Mashantucket on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30, $40, and $55. For more information, go to www.foxwoods.com or riverdance.com/usa/

‘Riverdance’ comes to Foxwoods Resort Casino this weekend.

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