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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ireland's Finest Hit Moscow

The sexy, high-stepping, toe-tapping Irish dance troupe that has charmed audiences worldwide is finally coming to Moscow. Riverdance will give their first and only Russian performance as the headline act at the St. Patrick's Society's Moskovski Ceili charity ball Saturday, Nov. 13.

Bringing Riverdance to Moscow was no small feat for the St. Patrick's Society organizers. "A lot of arm-twisting was involved," says Tony Rosato, the secretary of cultural affairs for the society. "Ireland is like a village, especially if one has a bit of education," explained Rosato, "but the most important type of contact is rugby."

Rosato appealed to his old school and rugby buddies now associated with Riverdance, as well as the Irish Embassy in Moscow and the Russian Embassy in Dublin, to clinch the world-famous dancers as the headline act for the society's charity ball.

Riverdance began humbly as an interval act at the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin in 1994. But the seven-minute Celtic dance number was such a crowd-pleasing hit that the troupe transformed its high-energy folk dance into one of the highest-grossing stage shows in history. The Riverdance show has attracted an audience of more than 8 million people worldwide since its launch in 1995, and the video is currently the best-selling video in the world, according to the production company.

Although the Moscow performance will not feature the charismatic Michael Flatley, (the Lord of the Dance no longer performs), among the 40 dancers are four Russians who tour with Riverdance. The troupe's music and dance was initially staged to spotlight the Celtic tradition of Irish hard-shoe step, but its repertoire has expanded to include song and dance from a variety of international cultural dance traditions. A portion of the Nov. 13 performance will be devoted to traditional Russian gypsy dance, featuring whirling dervishes and an onion-dome backdrop.

While bringing Riverdance to Moscow is something of a coup for the Irish expat community, it is just one of many "firsts" the Irish have achieved in this city. "For example," said Rosato with a wee hint of pride in his lilting accent, "we had the first 'foreign' parade in Moscow with the St. Patrick's parade in 1992. Imagine! Ten thousand people - and most of them Russians - on the Novy Arbat celebrating St. Patrick's Day."

The Irish community is officially numbered at about 300 in Moscow, but the ball's sponsorship adviser, Anna Jackson-Stevens, maintains "we're small but we're loud." With this being touted as "the last Irish party of the millennium," the St. Patrick's Society is hoping to sell 800 tickets to the event. The society has been raising money for local charities for over seven years, and the Moskovski Ceili ball will be donating proceeds to help Moscow orphanages No. 24 and No. 36.

Besides ticket proceeds for the orphanages, the society is raffling off prizes - including a trip for two on the Orient Express. The event will also feature an auction of items donated by local politicians supporting the Society's charitable work. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has donated a signed copy of his book, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov is donating one of his signature leather caps and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the vociferous leader of the State Duma's Liberal Democrats, is contributing one of his ties.

"I'd like Zhirinovsky to actually run the auction," laments Rosato, "but I've been warned we might not get the microphone away from him."

In addition to Riverdance, the event will feature Russian folk dances performed by the children of orphanage No. 24, The Merry Ploughboys from Dublin, and the Red Army Orchestra. The event will kick off at 7:30 p.m. with a reception for the Riverdance troupe, followed by a banquet at 8 p.m. Afterwards the entertainment and festivities will last until dawn.

Tickets for Moskovski Ceili are $100, $120 and $150 (credit cards are accepted). For ticket information, call 956-2978.