Riverdance 25th Anniversary Tour This Week in Jacksonville!

Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show is a reinvention of the internationally beloved favorite.  It is a theatrical show that consists mainly of traditional Irish music and step dance. With a score composed by Bill Whelan, it originated as an interval act during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest featuring Irish dancing champions Jean Butler and Michael Flatley.  The 25th Anniversary North American Tour was shut down in March 2020 during a sold-out return engagement due to the pandemic.

I had the opportunity to speak with Matthew Gardiner about Riverdance, Irish dance, life on the road, and what happened during the Covid pause.   Just hearing about the show and enthusiasm from his performer’s perspective gets you excited about the show.  Matthew is a gracious and fun emmisary for Riverdance!

Born in the US (Colorado), Matthew is the youngest of three.  His parents started his eldest sister in Irish dance to connect with the culture; his brother Michael followed, and then he began at age three.  They returned to Ireland when he was seven.

How do these performers even train for such a show?  To participate, he says most of the company has been training and coming up through Irish dance competitions and participating in camps.  While they may dabble in other forms of dance on the side, this is their training, hours every day, almost every day, like any other athlete.

And like other athletes, they have to care for themselves on the road, body and mind.  Immediately after a show, they stretch, ice down, and use massage guns so they don’t get stiff and sore the next day.  During the day, they have the opportunity to explore the cities they visit, although some choose to relax or do upper body work in the gym.

Once chosen for Riverdance, the team trains to ensure they gel as a group to look and sound like a precision instrument.  Irish dance incorporates tap in their shoes, so if not synchronized, it will sound off, whether two dancers or twenty.  The Riverdance tours are known for their intricate, precision footwork and formations.

Other cultural forms of dance are also incorporated into the show.  There is a dance battle between some of the Irish and a Flamenco dancer (Spain).  Tap is also represented in the show.

I asked about the rigid arms in the Irish style.  It seems the truth has been lost to time, but there are two stories most commonly told.  The first is that the Irish could not be seen partying during English rule, and passing soldiers couldn’t tell they were dancing if arms were by their sides.  The second:  Houses had split doors.  They would remove the top from the hinges and dance on the top.  Because rooms were small, their arms were down due to space constraints.  They didn’t have concrete as we know it, so that would have been a better way to produce the sounds.

During the pandemic, many of the dancers kept in touch via social media, even though not dancing together.  For those of you not familiar, it is very difficult to synchronize sound/music across multiple stream sources.  Matthew and Michael were performing with separate troupes when the pandemic hit, as Matthew was finishing his civil engineering degree and Michael was with the NY Radio City Music Hall troupe.  They started making videos together.  You can look them up at @gardinerbrothers across Instagram, FB…

You won’t want to miss Riverdance.  The energy is amazing.  The timing is impeccable.  The tour only has two shows in Jacksonville – January 24 & 25, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. at the Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts.  The show runs about two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.  Presented by the FSCJ Artist Series Broadway in Jacksonville sponsored by VyStar Credit Union.  Tickets are available at https://www.fscjartistseries.org/tickets/riverdance


by Cessy Newmon

About Cessy Newmon