South China Morning Posts behind the scenes with Riverdance

Riverdance Performers test South China Morning Post’s aspiring writers

Young Post writers interview Riverdance performers Dane McKiernan, Laura Minogue, Niamh McDarby, and Barry John Gallagher

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

South China Morning Post – Young Posts –
Compiled by Olivia Chavassieu

Nine Young Post junior reporters got the chance to meet Riverdance performers Niamh McDarby, Dane McKiernan, Barry John Gallagher and Laura Minogue at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. They took to the stage with the dancers, who taught them a number of dance 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 performed at Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.3rd – 16th May 2011

Interview with lead Chloey Turner


John McColgan, interviewed by CNN on Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Ireland