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A Reflective Journey With Riverdance

Recently this week became my fourth anniversary since I attended the 25th Anniversary Show of Riverdance. In that same year, I did an online interview with one of my friends from community college through email for my college course in Transcultural Communications. Her name is Danielle Medio, and after reflecting on this interview where I asked Danielle about her Irish-Italian culture, I realized that there’s a connection between my friend’s story and the story in Riverdance.

First, both share the commonality of being close to your family and coming to terms with yourself. In Riverdance , act one is about people being connected to their ancestors and accepting the world along with accepting themselves as collected people. “The first peoples knew the world as a place of power, their songs and dances and stories are negotiations with elemental powers.” It continues. “The first half of this performance shows them coming to terms with the world and with themselves”.

In my interview with Danielle, I asked her about what being Irish-Italian means to her, and she responded that it means being connected to her ancestors, to her family and coming into herself as an individual. “It's hard to pinpoint exactly what being Irish-Italian means to me but if I had to sum it up, I would say that it brings me closer to the generations that came before me and that actually lived in Ireland and Italy”. Danielle explained. “I would also say that it brings me closer to my family because both cultures place a heavy emphasis on family, and there are always a lot of them to go around! (lol!) It's also a piece of me that I wouldn't change for anything in the world because in some ways it is what defines me as I am. I'm proud that all my family from the previous generations have endured the struggles they did for my family to be here and be who we are today”.

In both cases, both Danielle and Riverdance have a connection with the generations before them. They also show their gratitude for the endurance their people went through to make their current reality possible, and they both accept themselves and show pride in who they are.

Secondly, they both share a commonality of coming to terms with the history of Ireland. In Riverdance, people lived through the potato famine and the consequences borne of the community. “From the mid-19th century, hunger and famine and ambition drove the Irish out of their home island, across the Atlantic to a New World.” They explained. “Lover parted from lover, families and communities were torn apart”. In my interview with Danielle, I inquired what the process was like for her to learn about her Irish-Italian heritage.

Danielle stated that there were plenty of historical facts to learn about Ireland and how they experienced tough hardships such as the potato famine. She even consumed different forms of media to come to terms with her ancestor’s past. “Learning about my background was a strange process. My family and I didn't start discussing our family tree and our culture until I was in the sixth grade. Then we started talking about the more well-known things like the potato famine and stuff of that nature”. She explained. “As I got older, I learned more about the Irish culture and about my background. I even learned a little about my culture through a movie called “Angela's Ashes” and through some books by Irish author James Joyce called “Dubliners” and “A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man” all of which I had done in High School”.

Danielle and Riverdance both explored the history of Ireland and deal with the brutal events that had taken place. Finally, Danielle and Riverdance also share the commonality of desiring to explore different cultures outside of Ireland. In Riverdance, the Irish people migrate to New York wherein the dance performance called Trading Taps has Irish people curious to know other cultures outside their own. “Under the streetlamps in the new cities, the dancers perform with pride in their heritage, curious to see what other traditions bring, struggling to bridge the gap between old dreams and new realities”. They stated.

In my interview with Danielle, she explained how she wanted people to know more about her and see that she’s more than someone who’s part Irish but that she consists of other cultures too. “Though, I am comprised of other nationalities such as Italian, Polish, and Cuban. People tend to just assume I am 100% Irish, which is not the case. Any time I find myself in a conversation about Nationalities people sometimes don't even bother to ask what I am made of and where my family is from, they take one glance at me and say”. Well, you're all Irish.. so, we know where you're from”. She stated.

“Explaining that I am inherit other cultures too shocks people and sometimes they don't even believe that I am part Cuban or Italian, even though my last name is Medio. While it's not a huge challenge to overcome, these assumptions sometimes make me feel like people don't want to know more about me because they think they already know”. These cases show that there’s more to Danielle and Riverdance than just their Irish culture. While they’re curious to know more about other cultures in the world, they also want people to know more about who they are as well and that there’s more to them than just their Irish culture.

To conclude, my friend Danielle told me in the interview that she has limited experience with the show Riverdance, yet I was able to realize her connection with Riverdance. This makes me appreciate Riverdance as being one of my favorite shows in musical theater, my friend Danielle who I first got to know back at Community College of Philadelphia when I saw her in a play, and the Irish culture.

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