IN 1994, any time before the Eurovision Song Contest of that year, if you had predicted that a show featuring Irish step dancing would become the next big thing in showbiz, your relatives would have confined you to a darkened room and told you to get as much rest as possible.
But as everyone now knows, Riverdance, which started life as a seven-minute live interval during the Eurovision, catapulted Irish dancing from parish halls onto the world stage.
The idea itself was simple enough – a chorus line of Irish dancers, but with music, dancing skill, choreography and dress elevating simple step dancing to a riveting spectacle.
Before Riverdance, Irish dancing was considered stuffy and constricting by most of the younger generation in Ireland, a hangover from the parochialism of de Valera’s Ireland.
Abroad, Irish dance had failed to capture the hearts of the world in the way traditional Irish music had.
Irish music was raw, sexy, exciting; dance on the other hand was seen as an art form where you were not encouraged to express yourself.
But those seven minutes in late April 1994 changed all that forever.
Youngsters from across the Irish diaspora and beyond soon wanted to get on stage and dance, and the world, it seemed wanted to watch them.
Millions of satisfied customers worldwide – in five different continents – have been made aware of the splendours of Irish music and dance, and the profile of Irish dancing in Ireland, Britain and the rest of the world has continued to grow.
They say that the 1994 Eurovision song contest is the only time an American dancer has won a contest for European singers, but in reality the real winners have been anyone with a love for Irish music.
This year Riverdance – The Gathering is taking place in Dublin from July 15-21.
On the 21st an attempt will be made banks of the River Liffey in Dublin and attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the Longest Riverdance Line, which was set in Nashville, USA, by 652 dancers.
You can join the stars of Riverdance, including ‘First Lady’ Jean Butler, in this event between Sean O’Casey Bridge and Beckett Bridge on the banks of the River Liffey.
Feet will be tapping, the music will be pumping, crowds will be cheering, all to the sound of Riverdance.
Over 1,000 people will line up along the banks of River Liffey in Dublin to break the world record. All you need is to be able to perform the Riverdance steps to a basic competency and have some fun.
To take part email: firstname.lastname@example.org
On July 21 there will also be two special performances of Riverdance, at 2.30pm and 5.30pm. The show will be introduced by and feature special guests.
Other highlights include on July 20, The Gathering Céilí at Merrion Square Park. This free event will include music and dance, with Riverdancers providing some informal instruction for aspiring dancers of any ability – whether you’re world champion material or whether you’ve never danced a step.
In the evening of July 20 a special event, Riverdance: On Screen, will take place at Merrion Square West, tickets from €10.
The show’s musicians past and present will showcase their skills as they perform live to a specially edited on-screen backdrop of Riverdance’s DVD highlights over the years.
Full performances of the show will continue at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin from June 27 – September 1.