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The Riverdance phenomenon and the development of Irish identity in the global era

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Irish dance production Riverdance appeared on the global theatre scene in 1995, and has since become synonymous with Irish culture. Riverdance's influence as a cultural product for Ireland positioned step dance as a major cultural signifier of Ireland. Premiering during the rise of Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy, the show revealed a nation in transition, establishing a new global identity to match their new economic prowess. Riverdance reimagined the economic and cultural possibility inherent in heritage products in the global market. This article examines how this performance of national identity branded Ireland as a distinctive cultural product in the globalized marketplace of the mid-1990s. Riverdance is contextualized by defining Ireland's role within the larger economy of the European Union (EU) and the ways in which national identity within a globalized perspective emerges during this period. The article also considers the ways in which the EU and European regionalism inform the performance of national identity.

Keywords: Celtic Tiger; European Union; Ireland; Irish dance; Riverdance; globalization

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Arizona.

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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