Riverdance is a show consisting of traditional Irish step dancing, originally debuting at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994, then expanded into a full show in 1995. Its original lead dancers were Jean Butler and Michael Flatley, who have since left. Today, the Riverdance consists of three dance companies spread out across the world.

What is the Irish Step dance?

The step dance kind of dance originates in Ireland, from traditional Irish dance. It was popularised by Riverdance, but it is performed all around Ireland and is also popular in various competitions.

The main feature of the Irish step dance is that the upper body remains stuff and stationary, where the feet and legs move quickly and precisely. Though Riverdance is performed in a large group, step dance competitions usually consist in solo performances.

Irish dancing still remains popular today, with Riverdance being a huge influence on its growing success. The dance competitions are important in Irish culture, and have even transported around the world.

The Story Behind the Riverdance Shows

Riverdance makes use of group and solo dancing to put together a performance that includes various aspects of Irish history and mythology.

The show traces the journey of our ancestors through song and dance, to tell the story of power, history, mythology, culture, past legends, the power of mother nature and more. The finale emphasises cultures and people coming together as one.

Some of the scenes include:

Thunderstorm: representing the power of the elements and forces beyond human control or understanding, The Riverdance main dance: the story of a Riverwoman who travels across the country, always growing in strength, and The Harbour of the New World: a story of Irish immigrants travelling to America, which consists of five parts, using both song and dance to tell the tale.

The Riverdance performances are really about a meeting of cultures, especially American and Irish, being performed in an impressive, precise and exciting dance. This dance caught the eye of people across the world, becoming an instant hit, selling out tours in Dublin, London and New York.

Riverdance Companies Across the World

There are now three companies that together make up the Riverdance, due to its overwhelming and continuing success. Each production company is named after a famous Irish river. These are the Boyne company of North America, the Foyle company of Ireland, and the Corrib company of Europe. They each have seven to nine lead dancers with a number of other dancers, bands and solo performers/ singers.

Riverdance Farewell Tour

Riverdance is currently on tour through Europe and the United States as part of the ‘Farewell tour’ before ending in 2010. Current stage shows differ from the original, with simplified sets and fewer dancers. However, the original message, the story and the awe all remain in any Riverdance stage production.