Riverdance: Live from New York City is exactly what its title suggests: the recording of a live performance by the Riverdance troupe of Irish dancers. Viewers who are interested in this DVD are undoubtedly familiar with Riverdance already: I'm no dance expert, so I'll just loosely describe it as a form of tap dance that focuses on complex foot routines with a fairly restrained use of the arms and upper body. In addition to the individual dance routines of the two lead dancers in the Riverdance troupe, we get to see quite a few group performances, in which the troupe as a whole form moving patterns around the stage as they dance. It's very impressive, both on the larger scale of appreciating the choreography, and on the individual scale of appreciating the talents of the individual dancers. It's quite clear that this dance style requires a lot of athletic ability as well as grace and rhythm: some of the dancers' moves show amazing flexibility and strength.
The overall theme of the performance seems to be "ancient Celtic mysticism"; at least that's how I'd account for the portentous voiceovers before some of the dance numbers, and the general set design, which favors a backdrop of moon images or misty landscapes. It's sometimes a little hokey (as when a "lightning storm" effect is carried on too long), but on the whole it provides a fairly austere and dramatic backdrop to the real show, which is the dancers themselves.
The dance numbers are interspersed with a number of songs, both individual and choral, and straight musical pieces. These are reasonably well done, but they don't carry the same effect as the much more interesting dance pieces. The dance pieces themselves alternate between large group dances, solo performances, and mixed group/solo pieces; the final fifteen minutes or so of this two-hour show is a sort of montage of the show as a whole, with each group of dancers reprising their performance briefly.
The cinematography is reasonably good, though sometimes I found that the camera moved around too quickly rather than allowing us to appreciate the dance from a good perspective for a few minutes.
Do not watch this DVD hoping for great picture quality; in fact, even setting your sights for "acceptable" will result in a disappointment. To begin with, while the transfer is widescreen, it is not anamorphically enhanced, even though the case claims that it is. It gets worse, though: Riverdance just has a lousy transfer, period.
Close-up shots are really the only shots that look acceptable here. Everything else is soft and blurry, to the point that the dancers' faces are just little pale blobs in any long-distance shot. The heavy edge enhancement is just another nail in the coffin; it's quite noticeable in the form of bright haloes around the dancers. Colors range from reasonably natural to rather murky. Contrast is sub-par as well, which is especially annoying since the dancers are often dressed in dark colors and performing in front of a dark background. A substantial amount of grain appears in many of the shots as well.
The average bit rate here is around 9.5 Mb/s, which is reasonably good but not superior to other decent non-Superbit titles. The average quantization (a measure of compression), however, is very high: around 9 with a peak of 12 to 14. There's no particular reason why the film should be so compressed, either: only 6.6 GB of the DVD's space is filled, leaving more than 1 GB of free space.
Riverdance comes with two audio tracks: the default DTS 5.1 and a Dolby 5.1. Both sound about the same, and both are acceptable; the DTS might be a shade richer, but only by a small amount. There's some use of the surround channels, but on the whole the sound is fairly center-focused. The music and singing comes across well, with a bright, natural sound. However, I did encounter some irregularities in the soundtrack at one point, with the sound occasionally going silent for a second before resuming. Fortunately, this seemed to be a problem with only one scene.
This is a Superbit DVD, so even though there actually is some empty space on the DVD (over 1 GB, to be exact), we don't get any special features.
Fans of Riverdance will probably want to see this DVD, as it has an enjoyable dance performance and some good music. However, given the lousy video transfer, there's no way that I would recommend purchasing it. It merits a rental at best.