Belfast Telegraph

Two current Riverdance lead performers from Northern Ireland give an insight into their 'dream' job

Amy-Mae Dolan
Amy-Mae Dolan
Jason O'Neill
Rachel Dean

By Rachel Dean

Amy-Mae Dolan (21) is a Riverdance lead dancer from Castlederg. She says:

"I started dancing when I was two years old and it actually happened by accident. My aunt used to mind me, and her daughters were dancers, so I used to go along with them and watch until I eventually began to dance myself. I went on to win the 2010 World Championship when I was 12. I attended the Carson-Kennedy Academy of Irish Dance in Belfast. The teachers there are amazing - they didn't just teach me how to be a great dancer, they helped me in any way they could.

"I kept competing until after my A-levels when I joined the Riverdance Summer School. It was a week-long course in which professional dancers taught us the iconic choreography from the show. I have loved Riverdance my entire life, so the summer school was amazing to me.

"One of my happiest moments was when I got the phone call asking me to join the show. I didn't have to think about my answer. I had watched Jean Butler and all the lead dancers every year and I had every DVD - it was a dream come true.

"There are so many things I love about Riverdance. I love the show itself and the Grammy award winning music by Bill Whelan. I will never tire of that music - it brings out another side of me, I go into 'Riverdance mode'. I also love showing what we can do as a team, it's an incredible feeling. I love travelling and all the friends I've met while dancing.

"I was so proud to be the female lead dancer when we performed in Croke Park last year for the Pope's visit to Ireland.

"The energy was insane - over 500 dancers performed in front of 82,000 people. It was such a magical, emotional moment for me."

Jason O'Neill (33) is a Riverdance lead dancer from Belfast. He says:

"I started dancing when I was five years old. I have six sisters who all danced, so it was always in my family. They were really passionate about it and I loved it, too. My sisters eventually quit and I kept going because I had fallen in love with the rhythm. Because of Riverdance, Irish dancing became popular and cool - I really wanted to be a part of that.

"I joined Riverdance in 2009, so I've pretty much been with them for 10 years. I was studying dance in Belfast when I auditioned for the show and everything just snowballed from there. It has been, and continues to be, an amazing experience. I feel so alive and natural when I'm dancing. It allows me to live in the moment.

"It's great being able to share your passion with the rest of the world - you can transform an audience by making them feel emotions through your dancing.

"Riverdance is such a special show - it has changed Irish dancing forever. I love the synchronicity of everyone dancing together and there's no better feeling that sharing the stage with friends.

"I feel so powerful dancing alongside them. Sometimes we have to travel with the show for most of the year, so we are all living out of suitcases and we get to share that experience together - and all the laughs. We're a family on the road. The energy is fantastic.

"When I got asked to be a lead dancer, I was in disbelief. It had always been my dream to take my love of dance further. I was shocked and delighted to be able to share my passion. It was perfect timing.

"My proudest moment was my first lead performance. It was in The Gaiety Theatre in Dublin and my whole family came to watch. I was filled with nerves, but it was the biggest thrill of my life. It took my career to another level - I've gotten a lead position every year since. I'm so proud to have been able to turn my hobby into a career that I'm so passionate about."

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