Riverdance signals Summer’s start

October 23, 2013


Where once it was the return of the emigrants drinking themselves into a stupor that signaled summers start (for more on that check out the Abbey Theatre’s production of The House), now Irish audiences can set their watches by Riverdance. Once the renowned dance troupe start dancing themselves into a tizzy on the Gaiety Stage we know it’s time to whip out our corn beef thighs in the fantastical belief that they might be exposed to a bit of sun. The former Eurovision interval act starts its ninth consecutive engagement at the theatre this Tuesday, having long since passed the one billion mark at the box office, played to a global television audience of 2 billion and sold over 3 million copies of the Grammy Award-winning CD. But they’re not just here to show off how far they have come from their humble beginnings.

“We love playing in the Gaiety,” Executive Producer Julian Erskine tells me. “It’s the smallest place we play in the world, the most intimate version of the show.”

This version was created about a decade ago when demand for Riverdance was so great they needed to streamline it so they could get it in and out of venues faster. “For years we had 13 40ft trucks and 120 people on the road on any given tour, with three different shows on three different continents.”

From a surprise party in the barn of an eccentric millionaire to the King of Azerbaijan’s palace, they’ve played everywhere. They’ve danced on board the QE2 during a storm in the Bay of Biscay and at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics. There was an appearance at the ’98 Grammys, which Julian describes as ‘wall to wall rock stars, Celine Dion and us’. And then there was that time in Austria when they were almost killed by kindness. “We’d set up the show and gone off for lunch and some nice cleaning people in the venue thought our stage looked a bit grubby…so they polished it. They didn’t tell any one. So when the dancers came out, one by one they just fell on the floor falling on top of one other.’

At last count they’d employed over 2,000 people resulting in 50 marriages and, at present, there are three engagements, most recently between a Flamenco and tap dancer. “It’s a fusion show,” says Julian, “so it brings people from very different cultures together whose paths most likely would never have crossed.”

And he is expecting the next generation to start banging on his door any day now. “We’re 17 years on the road and that is the age we start taking dancers on to tour with us. So we’re just waiting for the child of one of our dancers to sign up.”

Originally published in the Sunday Independent in July 2012

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