March 30, 2010
World champion dancer Anthony Sharkey will be reunited with former Riverdance female lead, Eileen Martin for a special once-off version of Riverdance in Glór on Saturday, April 9 in aid of Clare Crusaders
Extract from The Clare Champion
The Clare Crusaders help Children with Special Needs in the areas of CerebralPalsy, Autism, DownSyndrome and a variety of other conditions. They have a clinic in Barefield, County Clare, with 6 therapists providing speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy to 120 children in the Clare region free of charge. All funds are raised through volunteers and they do not receive government funding.
Dancer Eileen Martin, captured her first world title when she was just 12 and went on to win nine consecutive Leinster and All-Ireland titles, several Great Britain championships, All-England, and four world titles.
Having joined Riverdance as a young student, Eileen got a huge adrenaline rush dancing on the same stage as Jean Butler and Michael Flatley.
Little did she realise that Riverdance would attract over 22 million spectators over the next 15 years or that she would take over from Jean Butler and become the principal female in January 1997, touring Australia and North America, including at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway.
The wheel has now come full circle for the Foxrock native and mother-of-three as she juggles her family commitments with training the female principal dancers before tours, having joined Riverdance as Irish dance director in 2004. She also aims to open her own dancing school.
Before the interval act, she had no idea the show would become such a sensational success story. However, after their debut performance, she knew the producers had hit on something special.
“The whole image of all the dancers doing the same thing at the same time to the same music made Riverdance different. It contemporised Irish music and animated for the show. The mixture of different types of music and dance was unique and had a global appeal.
“It was a dream come true for me being able to dance in venues throughout the world. The whole experience was infectious. It becomes your life and the tour was like a big family,” she said.
The weeks leading up to a show were grueling. Practice started at 9am in the morning and often continued to 9pm, with just a few short breaks. All the dancers had to go over and over their steps and routine until it was perfect.
On occasions, Eileen was barely able to walk her muscles were so sore leaving the practice room.
The highlight of her career was the 18 months she spent on the Broadway tour where she took over the lead female role dancing with Pat Roddy and Anthony Sharkey.
“The Broadway tour was brilliant. The reaction from the audience was amazing and it gives you the energy to keep going night after night,” she recalled.
Having competed in All-Ireland and world championships at the West County Hotel in the early ’90s, she is very familiar with Ennis and is looking forward to performing in front of a local audience. She noted the Riverdance management couldn’t allow every dancer to stage parts of the show in their own hometown.
“They obviously think an awful lot of Anthony to allow him to bring his version of Riverdance to Ennis. It was lovely to meet children in the Clare Crusaders’ clinic in Barefield.
“Special needs children need extra attention. The provision of therapy makes a huge difference to the lives of these children. We need more clinics like this in Ireland,”
Anthony Sharkey was just 14 when he first saw the Riverdance show in 1994. Four years later, the Ennis world champion dancer joined the show and went on to dance as the male lead in Broadway with Eileen.
Having spent the last five months organising and producing his version of the show for the eagerly awaited Ennis debut with Ann Norton from Clare Crusaders, Anthony can’t wait for the opportunity to be reunited again on stage with Eileen in front of his family and friends.
“Eileen is my favourite female lead dancer. The first time I saw her perform on stage, I was blown away. She is so petite, she is like a little angel the way she glides on stage. She is so focused, she has the lead role down to a tee. She grabs the audience the minute she starts to dance and her smile is infectious.
“I have got great support from family and friends. It is a dream come true for me to be able to perform in front of a home crowd. It will be a fantastic night for Clare and Clare Crusaders,” he said.
Senior executive producer of the show, Julian Erskine revealed that Riverdance decided to bring extracts of the show to Ennis because of Anthony’s contribution and they were so impressed by the work being done for special needs children by Clare Crusaders.
“We are delighted to be doing something in some way to help the fantastic work being done by Clare Crusaders. When you see the work they do, it puts everything into perspective,” he said.
The Riverdance troupe will be joined by Irish vocal harmony group, The Key Notes. The group comprises tenors Jeremy Morgan and Barry Finn, baritone Simon Morgan and bass Eunan McDonald and Stephen Fennelly, who all have considerable international performance in a diverse number of musical fields.
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