July 23, 2009
By Shane McAvinchey of www.diddlyi.com
Just another day at the office…
When the Riverdance office number shows up on your cell phone, your imagination immediately starts running wild with pictures of far off distant lands and great adventures. That’s because it’s usually an invitation to do a Flying squad gig which can take you anywhere, at any time, in any country for any length of time. This time was no different and the destination was to be China for 5 days in June. We would be flying into Beijing then onto the Island of Sanya for the performance. We had been to China only last January and I was delighted to be going back so soon after the amazing time we had there. I put down the phone and immediately starting rearranging my schedule to fit the trip in.
Its funny, no matter how busy your life is, once the flying squad calls we all do our very best to change our schedules to fit the gig in. Nearly everyone on the flying squad has toured full time with the show at some stage and are now doing everyday jobs in many different fields. The flying squad gives all of us a chance to meet up, catch up and once again live our Riverdance lives for a few days!
On June 24th 2009 I was en route to China. I had to travel from Munich to London then onto Beijing. The dancers were coming from all over Europe and USA and I met up with the majority of them in London Heathrow. I first met Oran (our excellent and perfectly organized Flying squad coordinator, without whom the flying squad would have surely been left behind in some city somewhere in the world!), Mark McCole and Barry John Gallagher who had all just landed in from Dublin airport. Next I met David Bellwood, Michael Maguire and Paul Bailey. Ryan McCaffrey was flying in from Calgary and would meet us in Beijing. We all checked in for our flight. The flight time was going to be about ten hours and we were all dreading being stuck in the middle of a row of seats with crying babies beside us screaming all the way. As we checked in we all hoped for a nice window seat with a quiet person sat next to us. As we prayed for our nice comfortable flight our prayers were answered. The lady behind the desk looked up at us with a smile and asked “Where would you like to sit today” to which I quickly replied, ” The front!” And with that she bumped us all up to business class!
We finally arrived in Beijing after a nice comfortable flight complete with fully reclining seats. We arrived at around 10am local time and although we were jet lagged we still managed to make our way to the Silk markets for a bit of quality shopping. Many of us were not really fit for the bargaining and screaming vendors but we still came away with plenty of uniquely cheap “designer” clothes!
The next day it was off to San ya which we were told was tropical island and very popular with Chinese holiday makers. The flight was about four hours and we all had a chance to sleep off some of the jet lag. When we arrived the weather was very humid with plenty of clouds in the sky. We quickly dropped our bags at our hotel and made our way to the beach at the Ritz Carlton hotel where our performance would take place. Although the clouds were hanging in the sky it was still nice enough to sit on the beach with a few cocktails in between refreshing dips in the sea! We enjoyed some nice relaxing time after all the travelling in preparation for the rehearsals which would start the next day.
Next day we were in for rehearsals in the ballroom at the Ritz. The weather was once again very humid and for some reason they never turned on the air conditioning which made it quite uncomfortable for dancing! We were to perform two dances, Thunderstorm which is always performed with the male troupe and Riverdance which, of course, usually is performed with both male and female troupe. Needless to say, a few alterations had to be made to the choreography of Riverdance as it was the first time to be performed with an all male troupe! It was no problem for our dance captain, Ryan, and the rest of the troupe who got the routine down after only a few short rehearsals.
That night was show time. The performance was for Mercedes Benz. Apparently they had invited all their top dealers in China for a three day golf tournament finishing with an awards ceremony dinner where we performed. After that would be an outdoor party featuring one of China’s biggest rock bands. As usual the Riverdance lads put across a powerful performance which was well received by the crowd, many of whom had never even seen or heard of the show before this. The party afterwards was simply amazing, champagne, delicious chocolates and fireworks. It was truly a memorable night!
Next day we all “decided” to sleep in a little later before heading to the pool for the last time to soak of the China sun. We sat there reminiscing over the events of the night before and tried not to remind ourselves that we would be on our way back home to our normal lives that evening. Many of us were not too sad to be leaving as there were plans for another Flying Squad Gig in China the next week!
The travel home was not as comfortable as our flight to China as we were back in economy class but we still didn’t have too much trouble sleeping after what had been a very eventful couple of days. Over 30 hours of flying, three different cities in only 5 days, and all to bring the joy of Riverdance to China!
Interview with Riverdance Singer Brioni Gallagher
Foyle 2009 – Gaiety Theatre, Dublin