May 11, 2012
Touring with Riverdance from city to city in the U.S. is bittersweet for principal dancer Jason O’Neill, who knows this is his last opportunity to see the country — with the tour.
“We know it’s the end,” he said. “We’re on our farewell tour. We’re playing 84 cities … some smaller cities we’ve never played before.”
The U.S. touring production of Riverdance, which opened in New York City at Radio City Music Hall in 1996, will close in June. So, if you haven’t seen this tapping phenomenon yet, now’s your chance.
It’s the same great show, O’Neill said, but the dancers are giving it their all.
“The dancers have a bit more perspective. We’re a really tight group and we all know that this is the last time this audience will see us, so we’re giving it so much more,”
O’Neill, a Belfast native, has been dancing for 20 years. With six sisters, there was really no way around it. “Originally, I was opposed to the idea. But then a switch went off,” he said. He auditioned for Riverdance in Dublin while he was studying graphic design in college.
I thought I’d try something different,” he said.
So that’s just what he did. He got the call he was cast in the show a few days after his audition and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind ever since.
“I was shocked really,” he said. “It was really out of the blue.”
He stayed and performed in the Dublin show for a few months before heading to the U.S. After this tour closes, O’Neill — and the tour — will be off to South America.
“We will be going to countries we’ve never played before,” he said. “We’ll be headed to Brazil and Argentina. It’s really a great opportunity for us.”
A competition dancer — he achieved first place in the Ulster championships five times and he also won the Great Britain’s and All Scotland’s among others and placed second in the world in solo and team dancing — he finds dancing in the show to be much more relaxed.
“In competition, you have to have your arms by your side at all times. It’s very strict. You don’t smile. It’s a much different vibe,”
O’Neill also loves to travel. And performing in Riverdance has taken him all over the world. “I never imagined this would be my life, never in a million years,” he said.
Contact Kristie Rearick at email@example.com.
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