They launched the latest summer run of Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin yesterday, but their thoughts were turned to an absent friend lost in a mystery plane crash thousands of miles away.
Eithne Walls could have been in the middle of the photocall, they thought. Eithne Walls should have been here, they thought.
“Eithne played here the first time we did the Gaiety in 2004, she was in that company,” senior executive producer Julian Erskine said.
“After that she wasn’t with us on a full-time basis because she was studying to be a doctor, but she still came and did lots of gigs with us.
“This [photocall] is exactly the sort of thing she’d turn up to, because it would be easy for her to get out of college, nip up to this and go back to college.
“If we were doing something at the weekend, TV shows in Germany or whatever, she would do that.
“The last time she danced full-time with the show was here in the Gaiety.”
The 29-year-old doctor lost her life in the Air France tragedy earlier this month, along with two of her closest friends and 225 other souls.
Some of her friends remain with Riverdance.
“I was speaking to her shortly before she went to South America and she was really looking forward to going on holiday,” Zara Curtis, who danced with Eithne in Riverdance and in the Damsha dance troupe, said yesterday.
“She didn’t want to hang up her dancing shoes even though she was going to be a doctor, so she would come away with us from time to time if, say, the touring show as in one country and doing a tv gig somewhere else.
“She was so bubbly, she’d always be in the middle of things like this. It’s so very tragic, you really just don’t want to think about it too much. It is just so shocking.”
Ms Walls, from Ballygowan, Co Down, joined Riverdance in 1998 in the Flying Squad troupe and danced with the show on Broadway.\[Shane Donaghey\] Later still she joined the Foyle troupe for the first sell-out run of Riverdance at the Gaiety in 2004. The old theatre has put on a run of the show each summer since, with this year’s production beginning on 23 June.
This year will also see Riverdance team up with the RNLI lifeboat charity.
“Obviously, none of us thought of that at the time, but in a way the connection with the RNLI makes it all the more valuable,” Mr Erskine said.
“There’s a [family] memorial service for Eithne on Sunday that we’re all going up to, and we’re going to hold a memorial service in the Gaiety on 11 July which will allow people from the dancing community to have some time to reflect. Privately, between shows, we’ll let people gather and express their thoughts.”