Riverdance is celebrating its 25th anniversary in style with an updated show announced for its long-awaited return to the UK.
The Irish dancing phenomenon has come a long way since it first appeared as the interval act at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin.
On Irish shores we’ve been treated to plenty of opportunities to watch Riverdance develop since, and a lot has changed as it became a worldwide attraction over the last quarter century.
With a score composed by Bill Whelan, Riverdance was first performed on 30 April 1994 to an an estimated 300 million viewers worldwide during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest at the Point Theatre.
Dancers Michael Flatley and Jean Butler led the troupe to a standing ovation, captivating audiences to such a degree that husband and wife production team Moya Doherty and John McColgan decided to invest over $1 million into producing a full-length show.
Riverdance: The Show opened on February 9, 1995, returning to the Point with Flatley and Butler, as well as many of the Eurovision dance troupe — and the five-week run sold out in three days.
In April 1995 a video of Riverdance topped the Irish and UK singles chart, before a sold out four-week run in the Apollo in London.
But before the end of the year, Michael Flatley — who had choreographed many of the numbers — had departed following a dispute, and in the first major change he was replaced by nine-time World Irish Dancing Champion Colin Dunne.
A New York City run followed in 1996, as well as in Cork and Belfast, before a US Tour was announced.
There were more changes however, as vocal ensemble Aruna left the show, followed by Jean Butler’s departure in January 1997, and Colin Dunne left in June 1998.
Now hugely popular Stateside, lead dancers Pat Roddy and Eileen Martin of the Shannon company joined singers Brian Kennedy and Tsidii Le Loka when the show moved to Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre in 2000.
Riverdance had become so popular by then that different companies were formed to tour different regions simultaneously, the firms were named after Irish rivers.
The Lee and the Liffey for the US and UK, and later as the show expanded even more as the Lagan, Avoca, Shannon, Boyne, Corrib, Foyle, Moy and Bann followed — touring the world for 15 years.
Colin Dunne briefly returned to perform at a New York show in 2002, while Breandán de Gallaí and Joanne Doyle featured as the lead dancers to a troupe of over 100 at the Opening Ceremony of the 2003 Special Olympics in Dublin.
A farewell tour took place in 2009, but the show continued in smaller venues with simplified performances.
On 21 July 2013, a record was set when a line of 1,693 dancers from 44 countries danced to Riverdance on a bridge overlooking the River Liffey, led by Jean Butler and Padraic Moyles.
Another high-profile tour for the 20th anniversary came in 2014, but it has since returned to smaller venues, however, Riverdance will return to the UK with an updated show to mark its 25th anniversary next year.
But fear not Irish fans, as it will also be taking up its residency in the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin from June to September of this year.
To mark the milestone, Bill Whelan has re-recorded his Grammy Award-winning soundtrack, while producer Moya Doherty and director John McColgan have updated the show with new lighting, projection, stage and costume designs.