Belfast Telegraph

Riverdance lit the torch for modern dance, says founder on 25th anniversary

John McColgan grew the show from a seven-minute Eurovision interlude into a global dance behemoth.

Riverdance creator John McColgan (Niall Carson/PA)
Riverdance creator John McColgan (Niall Carson/PA)

Riverdance mogul John McColgan has spoken of how the Irish phenomenon paved the way for modern dance, to mark the 25th anniversary of its debut at the Eurovision Song Contest.

The seven-minute performance on April 30 1994 captivated the audience at The Point theatre in Dublin and an estimated 300 million viewers globally, receiving an ecstatic standing ovation.

McColgan said the half-time show “lit the torch for the future”, inspiring touring productions such as the Kevin Clifton-starring Burn The Floor.

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Heartbeat Of Home, from the producers of Riverdance, will play in the West End (Live Nation/PA)

McColgan, who founded the show with his wife Moya Doherty, said the audience’s rapturous response was evidence it would become a hit.

“We knew as soon as it was finished based on the response of the 4,000 mixed Europeans who were at that final. They jumped to their feet all at once.

“They hadn’t been prepared for what it was – but they jumped to their feet instantly. That was the decision then to turn it into a full-length show.

“Riverdance opened the door for dance shows. There were almost no dance shows touring the world in the way that there are now.

“At one point there were 15 Irish dance shows going round the world. All the other modern dance shows – from your Burn The Floors to everything – grew out of that.”

McColgan evolved the show into a full performance by adding elements of commercial, Spanish and Russian styles.

He said the original performers had been “talented amateurs” but had set such a high standard that only professionals and “true athletes” followed them.

Heartbeat of Home, McColgan’s follow-up, is to play in the West End following a successful run at the London Palladium earlier this year.

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Riverdance’s 25th anniversary was celebrated at the Hammersmith Apollo in London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

It features performers from around the world, many of whom have starred in Riverdance, and showcases a mix of traditional Irish, Latin, hip-hop, Afro-Cuban and contemporary styles.

The show was created by Doherty and McColgan in 2013, and has already been performed in Dublin, North America, China and Germany.

McColgan said he had long hoped for the prestige of having the show play in the West End, adding: “Good reviews on our American tour are wonderful – but they don’t have the same impact as us appearing in the West End.”

Previews at the Piccadilly Theatre will begin on September 4 with the opening night on September 11.

Heartbeat Of Home will run until October 13 and tickets go on sale on May 10.

PA

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