Younger generation stepping into old shoes for Riverdance tour

The new look Riverdance tour will feature lead dancers not born when the show opened in 1995.

The Irish dancing phenomenon, which has thrilled audiences worldwide for a quarter of a century, will return to the UK with an updated show next year to mark its 25th anniversary.

Riverdance took its first steps as the interval act at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin to great acclaim, before it was developed into a full-length show, changing the face of Irish dance and music.

To celebrate 25 years of toe-tapping, the show’s composer, Bill Whelan, has re-recorded his Grammy Award-winning soundtrack, while producer Moya Doherty and director John McColgan have updated the show with new lighting, projection, stage and costume designs.

Riverdance tour
Riverdance tour

The production’s troupe of dancers and musicians includes many who were born after the show’s initial rise to fame.

Amy-Mae Dolan, 21, from Aghyaran in County Tyrone, is one of the show’s lead dancers and loves being part of such a long-running success story.

She said it is “the best job in the world”, adding: “It’s that music. It’s incredible.

“It just makes my heart beat so, so fast.

“It fills my body with adrenaline, and I just thank everyone always who helped me get there.”

Dolan said being good enough to be part of Riverdance is the at the back of every young Irish dancer’s mind, and she recalls watching videos of the show “constantly”.

Reflecting on its popularity, Dolan said: “I think one of the main things is the uniqueness of Riverdance.

“Nothing like it had ever been seen before the Eurovision Song Contest.

“More than 20 dancers had never been put into a straight line and done exactly the same thing at the exact same time, and it captivated everyone that night.

“It’s that originality and staying true to that originality that I think brings people back each time, and because of the music.

“As performers, it just does something to us, it’s incredible.

“That music, it sends tingles down your spine, and it does that to the audience too and they love it.”

Composer Whelan, 68, from Limerick, whose original Riverdance record spent 18 weeks at number one in the Irish charts, said bosses have “freshened up the look” of the production, but assured fans it is still the show they know and love.

“The central heart of Riverdance, the beating heart, is there. If we ever started to mess around with that then we’d be doing another show.

Riverdance returns to @gaiety_theatre this Summer and we are just busting with excitement to come home to

— Riverdance (@Riverdance) March 14, 2019

“This is not another show. This is Riverdance,” he said.

Director McColgan, 73, from Strabane in County Tyrone, said he was very proud of the show back in 1995 and thought it would last for a couple of years in the UK and United States, but never dared to think beyond that.

He said the response to the show is the same “from Japan to Mexico to Germany to the United States”, pointing out there is no language barrier.

“It’s the language of dance, and it’s the language of people, artists, performers from different countries who believe in their art, and believe in their craft and they believe in the integrity and sophistication of what they’re doing.

“And I think that comes across to the audience,” he said.

McColgan said Irish dancing is no longer a “slightly eccentric folk dance”, but is now an accepted art form.

He said the show sparked an increase in Irish dancing schools around the world from Russia to Romania to Mexico, adding that everywhere Riverdance reached, people wanted to do it.

McColgan said the team strives to maintain the highest of standards, regularly tweaking and reinventing parts of the show, with rehearsals taking place daily.

“And what I say to the kids is, and it’s part of our mantra, that every night’s opening night.

“And the great show that you do tonight will have you employed in a year’s time,” he said.

The tour begins in Bournemouth on March 10 and goes on to visit towns and cities including Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol, Cardiff and London.

Before the UK tour, Riverdance will be at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin from June until September this year, as well as performing a string of shows in Killarney in September.