A step in the right direction

A step in the right direction

Performers from global dance phenomenon 'Riverdance' put our aspiring writers to the test

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It was so exciting to meet Riverdance performers Dane McKiernan, Laura Minogue, Niamh McDarby, and Barry John Gallagher.
It was so exciting to meet Riverdance performers Dane McKiernan, Laura Minogue, Niamh McDarby, and Barry John Gallagher.
Photos: Olivia Chavassieu
Nine Young Post junior reporters got the chance to meet four Riverdance performers last week at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. They took to the stage with the dancers, who taught them a few moves. Afterwards, they interviewed the performers about being part of the Riverdance phenomenon. To top it off, they got a glimpse of the show's costumes, and found out how they were made. Here, they share their behind-the-scenes experience.

Eina Gurung: When did Riverdance first become popular?

Niamh McDarby: It became famous in 1994, when Riverdance performed during an interval at the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin [Ireland]. No one had seen the Irish dance before and that night it was seen worldwide on television. It was something different and it touched people from all over the world.

Karen Chau: It sounds like Irish dancing is very popular in Ireland ...

Niamh: Everyone in Ireland has probably gone through Irish dancing at some stage. But now it's not only in Ireland. It's huge in America, too. Once Riverdance went abroad, it inspired people the world over to send their children to learn the steps and to keep the Irish culture alive. It's really big now.

Talise Tsai: There are so many Irish tap-dance shows out there. What makes Riverdance so special?

Dane McKiernan: It's just so diverse. It's not just Irish dancing, but there's also American tap dancing, singing, flamenco dancing, and even Russian folk dances. I think people like it so much because it's such a mixed show. There's a little bit of everything, and there's always something that people can relate to. Children just love it. We always see lots of them watching our show, and there's even old people, teenagers, people of every age bobbing their heads to the music in their seats. I mean, there's just something for everyone. It just makes them want to dance.

Karen: Were you familiar with Irish dancing before you joined the show?

Barry John Gallagher: Yes, I have been doing Irish dancing since I was six years old.

Niamh: I started dancing when I was four. I did it one day a week and started competing. Many people finish competing in their 20s. They go to college or join a show.

Eina: How did you get over your stage fright?

Barry: I used to get quite nervous on stage. I would see the audience and my mind would go blank. I would feel like I don't even remember the steps that I had been learning for the past six months. It's definitely nerve-wracking [the first few times] but eventually you get used to it. I managed to get over it.

Coco Lam: Have there been times when the pressure was too much and you felt like giving up?

Barry: The competitions are perhaps what cause the most pressure. You have to give all you have and strive to win.

Niamh: Doing Irish step-dancing competitions as a teen is full of pressure, especially when you have to give up time you could spend hanging out with friends.

Karen: What does your family think about your job with Riverdance?

Niamh: I'm one out of four siblings and me and my sister both do Irish dancing. We've both been in the show, and our parents really support us.

Barry: In my family, four of us take part in Riverdance, and our parents are really proud of us.

Dora Cheung: What's been the most difficult thing during practice?

Laura Minogue: Oh, blisters and injuries!

Niamh: We try to warm up well and we have a great physio who takes care of us ... We eat well and stretch to take care of our bodies, which are our main tool in our life and career.

Janet: Any special shoes/ equipments you need to wear when you are dancing?

Niamh: We need to put on some special shoes, which there are fibre glass in the tip of the sole. Therefore, There will be tapping sound emitted when we are dancing.

Dora: The most memorable show?

Laura: Dancing in Radio City in New York. It was for Riverdance's 10th anniversary.

Dane: There's too many to think of!

Riverdance the show is in Hong Kong until Sunday

Junior reporters' impressions

Coco Lam

The workshop was somewhat of a profound experience for me. I mean, I’ve always been someone who lacked self-esteem; but while we all were split into separate groups and learning a snippet of the routine for one of the numbers, I felt my confidence resurfacing. Sure, I was tripping over my feet a lot, but I was enjoying every moment of it. The very fact that I got to go behind the scenes of this phenomenal show was enough to bring me back onto my two feet.

As someone who developed an interest in Irish dancing earlier on, I’d always felt tempted to take it up as a hobby but I wasn’t sure. It was really nice to be reassured that people can start learning at any age, that there isn’t a limit or anything. The most important thing is to practice, practice, and practice; as it makes perfect.

I’ve already snagged tickets for Tuesday’s show, I’m sure it’s going to be a blast.

Tara Lee

The dancers’ passion for Riverdance really shows on stage, and that is one of the reasons why people all over the world find Riverdance magical.

Talise Tsai

What astounded me the most during this workshop was the time and effort each dancer put into the production. Just to join the Riverdance team typically meant 15 years of rigorous practice since age five or six. Prior to a two hour show, there would be a full week of rehearsals everyday, adding up to about 40 hours of practice. Its amazing how the dancers are able to persevere despite the painful blisters and injuries they come across, and still be fully energized to give their best to the audience. The commitment and determination of the dancers are an inspiration to youth and adults worldwide, reminding them that any dream can be accomplished if patience and heart is put into it.

Karen Chau

The interview started with a few steps taught by the four Riverdance dancers. There is no other ways to understand Irish dance better than to learn and feel it- and it wasn’t easy. The steps were simple, but we had to move really fast, with energy, and it must be quite nerve-wrecking because a little delay could be magnified by the synchronised beat from the hard shoes with fibre glass.

What impressed me the most is the passion shown in the interview towards Irish dancing, that everyone in Ireland is so involved in their culture and knows the dance. I guess it is this mutual connection and interest that bonded the people together and made Riverdance such an epic success. In fact, dancers of Riverdance came from different backgrounds, but after all they have gone through, Riverdance is just one big family. Quite literally! There has been 35 marriages between company members!

Dora Cheung

Ten years ago, I went to see a spectacular show in New York called Riverdance, and last week I got to meet some of the Riverdance dancers! Laura Minogue even taught me dance steps. It takes lots of practice before you can dance on the high beat.

We also got to have a close look at some of the show’s costumes. They are all handmade and in Irish style with shiny beads and jewels. I am totally in love with the dresses. Dancers wearing these glamorous costumes will definitely sparkle on stage! But what stroke the deepest chord in the interview is what Dane said: “It’s never too late to start!” It reminds us to dare to dream and strive for our goals. I highly recommend you to watch the long-awaited Finale of the Riverdance, it will be an amazing experience.

Janet Tam

The beginning of our interview was exciting, we learnt the Irish Enthusiastic dance, with rapid movements of our foot and legs. I appreciate their patience on teaching us the riverdance bit by bit. The four performance rs demonstrated the steps with music, their legs acted in a flexible and speedy way, with the clear and melodious tap sounds.They have a huge enthusiasm in Riverdance. They need to perform eight shows a week,but they try to show as energetic and powerful every time.

Chloe Lam

I asked the cast what is the main reason for Riverdance’s popularity and longetivity. They said it is due to its variety, consisting of Spanish Flamenco, Irish stepdancing and American tap. It touches on different cultures that reach everyone from everywhere. ‘It is a little bit of everything. It’s a family show. It makes you want to dance.’ Next is the moving music and passion: ‘It stays with you.’ Dancers have danced since five or six, with sixteen years of training. Once they get in the show, they are basically dancing all the time – a good 40-hour, full week, all day. The most difficult part is the injuries and pain that haunts: blisters on their feet due to constant banging, yet, are worthwhile: ‘You never feel it on stage. You feel the pain only when you want to get out of bed.’

Pictures from the workshop


Photo: Abhann Productions / Clark James Mishler

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