Many rivers to cross

As lrish step dancing extravaganza Riven/(111cc hits Scotland. the show‘s former star Michael Flatley is waging war with his own Celtic showstopper. Ellie Carr meets his rivals in the battle of the clogs.

iyerdance a word with almost mystical powers. At least it would be il‘ you'd watched £3 million in box ol'l'ice returns Hood into the col‘l'ers since the show leapt from seven- minutc l'iller in the liurovision Song Contest to the biggest thing in showbiz since Andrew Lloyd \V’ebbCr's salary.

()ut ol' seven-minutcs-til-stcp-dancing-that- shtmk-thc-world catnc the biggest show ol‘ the ‘)()s. Who would hayc helicycd slip-jigs would become sexy below 30 pairs of legs in tiny skirts and shiny leather battered out speedcd-up. synchronised laps to Bill thlan's soaring trad- uintcmporary score'.’ In three years. Ril'(’l'(/(lll('(’ 'l‘he Phenomenon ~ aside lrom selling l.3 million lickcls world-wide has produced a sister company in the States: several top ten singles: the UK‘s second bestselling video. and an unprecedented dctnand for Irish dance teachers.

Last but not least. it has produced a rin from within its own ranks. Michael lilatley. l‘ormcr star dancer and choreographer with ly’ii'cn/mtcc. now fronts and stars in his own ('eltic

extravaganza. the equally high-grossing [.(m/ ()f

'l'lic Dance. Just as Kiwi-(lance is warming up in the wings l‘or its l'irst Scottish appearance at Edinburgh's Playhouse. Lord ()j'T/ic Dam-v has pipped it to the stage door by two weeks with a booking at Glasgow‘s SIECC.

ll' this sounds complicated. bitchy and hill ol‘

team before showtime. it probably was. lilallcy has promoted himsell' as the current that made the original Riven/(111cc How. The (‘hicago-born Irish-American dancer. now in his late thirties. starred in the show with Irish-American partner Jean Butler. never nnssing a night alter the first seven-minute show-stopper. To many. the cheeky LES-style Irish leprechaun with the

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awesome 28 taps per second l‘eet was lx’irr'n/uncr'. To many of the cast he was et'. confident shall we say. And eventually. tor the producers. he was a star who got too big for his own dressing room.

Finally in October l‘)‘)5. just 2-1 hours bel‘ore London's opening night. l-‘latley Iclt the show he hclped create. Back in Ireland tongues began wagging. Rumours about the star‘s untimely departure were flying and before long. were splashed across the front pages of the press. Some said Flatley had bcen sacked. tnost said he walked. but all agreed the dispute was met bucks big ones.

The slip-jigging son ol ('ounty ('arlow l'athers was said to have made a pay claim to the tune of £16 million. The litre/Manic producers denied such ligures were under discussion. but whatever the truth. lilatley never returned and the split goes down in history as a bitter one.

For Riven/wire lans and indeed some of the cast. the big l‘car was that the show wouldn‘t go on without its uncrmyned king. ‘A lot of the younger girls l‘clt really sad when he lel‘t.‘ says Joanne Doyle. the gorgeous but down-to-earth 23—year-old Dublin lass who clinched the t‘emale lead when Jean Butler lel't for Hollywood last year. "l'hey couldn't imagine it without him.‘

The dancers’ tears were unl‘oundcd. 'It was brilliant.‘ remembers Doyle. 'Al'ter a l‘ew weeks

‘Atter a few weeks of getting used to [Michael Flately’s departure] the troupe emerged as the backbone of the company. We proved to ourselves that Biverdance was bigger than any one person.’

Joanne Doyle, female lead.

of getting used to it the troupe emerged as the backbone of the company. We proved to ourselves that it [River-dance] was bigger than any one person.’

The dark-haired County Donegal charmer who now l'ills Flatley's dance shoes as lead. 27- year-old Breandan De Gallai. agrees. ‘lt was a victory.‘ he whispers. in rich Donegal tones and with a twinkle in the eye that would shame Daniel O‘Donnell. ‘It was always Michael and Jean that were sold. And now that we’re not in the troupe any more and we‘re the principals. I‘ll always realise that the strength lies in the troupe.‘ Wise words from two so young. The Riven/mice leads do a wicked job in disproving the myth ol‘ dancers as having talent but nae brains.

A tar bigger tragedy than Flatley leaving the duo. happened l'il'teen months later when the troupe split two ways for the American show. "l‘he backbone was broken in hall'.‘ says Doyle.

Back in box ot‘l'ice-Iand the battle goes on. Lord Of The Dance is gaining new followers with its raunchy rock video rendering of Celtic myths. glitzy costumes and deep-tanned demi-god ol‘ a star. Rircrdancc is conquering pastures new with its slick. streamlined. treatment of traditional Irish steps with good times. flamenco and tap-dancing thrown in. and as Doyle puts it ‘hemlines tor the ‘)()s.‘ Each has its cheesy aspects but the energy and dance skills go through the root' on both counts.

Doyle and De Gallai reckon the world is big enough for two Irish shows and numerous spin-oil‘s. With Lord ()f'l'lw Duncc now netting a reported .£l million a month and Riven/(111cc collecting a £3 million advance on its [Edinburgh run. they could just be right.

Lord (1/7th Dance is u! I/It’ SlfC'C Glasgow, Sal 25—7'110 28 Jun; Riven/(111cc is at The Play/muse, lz'rliIIbmg/I. Mon 10 Feb-Sat 5 Apr:

Irish eyes on the prize: self-styled lord 01 The Dance Mlchael Flatley (left)

and Blverdance stars Breandan De Gallal and Joanne Doyle