The interval act that would ignite a global phenomenon
Riverdance at the Eurovision Song Contest 1994

Riverdance at the Eurovision Song Contest 1994

Riverdance is a theatrical show consisting mainly of traditional Irish music and dance. Featuring Irish Dancing Champions Jean Butler and Michael Flatley, and with a score composed by Limerick native Bill Whelan, it originated as an interval performance during the Eurovision Song Contest 1994. Shortly afterwards husband and wife production team John McColgan and Moya Doherty expanded it into a stage show, which opened in Dublin on 9 February 1995.

At Eurovision 1994

Riverdance was first performed during the 7-minute interval of the Eurovision Song Contest 1994 at the Point Theatre, Dublin on 30 April 1994. It received a very large standing ovation. Later that year, the BBC, the broadcaster for the United Kingdom, commissioned a repeat performance of the act for the 1994 Royal Variety Show, when it was introduced on stage by Sir Terry Wogan. At Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest it was named as one of the most popular interval acts in the history of the contest. This first performance featured Irish Dancing Champions Jean Butler and Michael Flatley, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the Celtic choral group Anúna with a score written by Bill Whelan. Most of the show's choreography was done by Flatley.

Success after Eurovision

The success of the Eurovision interval show led John McColgan and Moya Doherty to consider how to develop the piece. They decided to produce and direct a stage show, expanding the Eurovision piece and Bill Whelan's composition.

In November 1994 tickets were sold in Dublin for the first full-length performance of Riverdance, which opened at the Point Theatre on 9 February 1995. The show starred the original lead dancers from the Eurovision spot and ran for five weeks and was a sell-out with ticket sales of over 120,000. On 8 May 1995 Riverdance performed at the Royal Gala 50th Anniversary of VE Day celebrations at the special invitation of Prince Charles. This attracted a television audience of 20 million. A video release of Riverdance occurred in the UK on 5 June 1995 which immediately debuted at #2 before rising to #1 the following week.

For a total of seven months the Riverdance UK video remained in the charts and became the all-time highest selling music video in the UK. During the second half of 1995, Riverdance performed a four-week season at The Apollo at Hammersmith before returning to the Point Theatre Dublin for another six-week sellout season before again returning to The Apollo at Hammersmith for another six-week season which again was a sell out. Riverdance also performed at Royal College of Music, London in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; Queen Elizabeth II; and Princess Margaret on 17 July 1995. After successful runs in other cities in Europe, Riverdance travelled to New York City to perform at the legendary Radio City Music Hall in March 1996.

This was the first time the show had been performed in America. To the relief of the producers, the show was a success with 14 March 1996 marking the start of an eight-week sell out season at Radio City Music Hall. The sales of merchanise resulted in the Radio City Music Hall merchandise sales record being smashed during the first performance of Riverdance. Anúna left the show in September of that year.

All the below people are credited in the video.

List of dancers involved

  • Jean Butler
  • Michael Flatley
  • Dearbhail Bates
  • Lorna Bradley
  • Kelly Byrne
  • Sabrina Carty
  • Andrea Curley
  • Breandán De Gallaí
  • Kathleen Doohan
  • Susan Ginnety
  • Andrea Kelly
  • Eileen Martin
  • Maeve McCarty
  • Kevin McCormack
  • Ronan McCormack
  • Belinda Murphy
  • Lorcan Murphy
  • Areleen Ní Bhaoill
  • Niamh O'Brien
  • Emer O'Grady
  • Colm Ó Se
  • Cormac Ó Se
  • Dara O'Shea
  • Joan Rafter
  • Lucia Rafter
  • Tracey Taaffe

List of Drummers

  • Tony Nolan
  • Andrew Reilly
  • Darren Smith
  • Derrick Tallon

Members of Anúna

  • Katie McMahon (Lead soprano)
  • Michael McGlynn (Director)
  • Miriam Blennerhassett
  • Richard Boyle
  • Sarah Clancy
  • David Clarke
  • Tony Daveron
  • Monica Donlon
  • Caron Hannigan
  • Peter Harney
  • Emer Lang
  • Máire Lang
  • John McGlynn
  • Maireád Ní Fhaoláin
  • Tara O'Beirne
  • Garrath Patterson