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Kick your shoes off, Riverdance



Published: Thu, May 17, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Riverdance still has the power to drive audiences wild, and probably always will. Tuesday’s show at Covelli Centre proved that.

But the decision to park it for a while is a good call. After 15 years, it’s time.

The Irish dance and music phenomenon is nearing the end of its final U.S. tour, which is now in its third year. It made one last stop in Youngstown.

Several touring troupes have been circling the globe, and they will continue to tour abroad.

But Riverdance has played Youngstown twice in two years (there was a three-show run in 2010 at Powers Auditorium), so it has clearly reached the saturation point in this country. There were a few hundred empty seats in the bowl part of Covelli Centre on Tuesday night.

To keep this franchise fresh, it needs time off.

Riverdance tells the story of the Irish people, using the dance and music of their homeland. The world-class talent on stage Tuesday showed the producers are not letting up as the U.S. tour winds down.

The lead dancers were Chloey Turner and Callum Spencer, and they were phenomenal. In fact, the stage could barely contain them — figuratively and literally. In the segments that use all 18 dancers, it was a tight squeeze on the shallow Covelli stage.

The production itself also seemed a bit scaled down. Missing this go-round was the Russian dance segment — which is a shame, because it’s awesome.

Marita Martinez-Rey twice performed a fiery Flamenco, the intense Spanish dance that is NOT to be done with a smile. Exuberant jazz tapper Benjamin Mapp did double-duty, singing the spiritual “Heal their Hearts,” but he lacked the deep, earthy voice that imparts a sense of suffering and perseverance.

The music, provided by a five-piece ensemble, is plaintive and mystical at times, blazingly fast and fierce at others.

But it’s not just melody that makes it so transfixing. The angelic vocals and the unique sound of the Irish instruments — fiddle, bodhran, concertina, pipes and whistles — are at least half of the equation.

Simply Slavic Festival will expand this year

Simply Slavic, the downtown festival that celebrates the area’s large Slavic community, will be June 16 from noon to 11 p.m. on East Federal Street, downtown.

Now in its second year, the festival is expanding to two city blocks to give it more room and have more of a street-fair layout, said event chairman Ken Shirilla.

There also will be more food vendors and nonstop live entertainment until midnight.

Nearly 4,000 people attended the festival last year, including visitors from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and beyond, said Shirilla.

Jonesfest will return to downtown Youngstown

After moving to Nelson Ledges last summer, regional jam band Jones for Revival is bringing its annual festival back to downtown Youngstown this summer.

Jonesfest V will be Sept. 30 on West Federal Street, between Wick and Phelps street.

JFR has a new album titled “Listen to the Universe” due in July.

new festival will add a Middle Eastern flavor

A new festival will be added to the list of events in downtown Youngstown this summer. The first Mediterranean-Middle East Festival will be Sept. 22 on West Federal Street, between Phelps and Hazel streets.


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