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Riverdance – Dancer Kieran Bryant Reflects On The Iconic, Unstoppable Force Hitting Australia

National Arts and Comedy Editor. Based in Melbourne.
Pop culture, pop music and gaming are three of Jesse’s biggest passions. Lady Gaga, Real Housewives and The Sims can almost sum him up – but he also adores a night at the cinema or a trip to the theatre.

When the audience at 1994's Eurovision Song Contest entered The Point Theatre in Dublin, it's fair to say most – if not all of them – were completely unaware that they were about to witness history.

The contest's seven-minute interval act for that year was 'Riverdance', a powerful showcase of Irish dancing presented in a brand-new light, which catapulted the dance style into the mainstream, captivating all in attendance.

It was turned into a full production, taking to the stage in all its glory once again at The Point Theatre. . . A full circle moment. It has been a thunderous, unstoppable force ever since Michael Flatley and Jean Butler led the charge, playing more than 15,000 performances across the world and having been seen by more than 30 million people.

'Riverdance', at its core, is a show exploring and celebrating different cultures, dance styles, and music. It's touring Australia this year in a stirring 25th anniversary reinvention of the original material, starring a phenomenal cast of dancers and musicians including Australia's own Kieran Bryant, in the male lead role.

Kieran has had dance in his life for as long as he can remember.

“From the beginning, I was essentially born into it. I have an older brother and sister who were doing it before me. I didn't really have a choice at first, I was forced into it. . . But it wasn't long before I fell in love with it,” Kieran reflects with a laugh. “I competed since the age of four, all the way up pretty much until I joined the show, and I got the opportunity to attend the Riverdance Summer School in my final year of high school.”

Riverdance 2024 tour

Competing was something Kieran loved to do, however he always had dreams of being part of a production on stage. Luckily, his participation in Riverdance's Summer School was his golden ticket to being a part of the iconic show. He joined the touring cast in 2016.

“I've learnt so much along the way. You meet so many incredible people – so many people that have stories from before you were in the show, so many life lessons you learn along the way,” he says. “In this company, the dedication you see from so many people, and the work ethic. . . It's really something that I strive for, and something that I'll always be working towards.”

As the male lead in 'Riverdance', Kieran is involved in many of the show's musical numbers. A highlight, he says, is the explorations of many different cultures and sounds.

While Irish dance is essentially what gave birth to the show, it has gone on to blossom into a production fusing a mesmerising collection of routines and styles together.

“There's an incredible number in the second half where you get to trade off with the American tappers. That one's almost like a dance battle, I love doing that number. You get to do an incredible piece called 'Ritmos', with the drummer and the Flamenco dancer,” Kieran describes.

“There's a lot more crowd interaction with ['Trading Taps'], you can kind of play up the acting a little more in that one which is fun.”

Kieran elaborates on some of the overarching themes and messages of 'Riverdance'.

“The first act tells the story of old Ireland, and the hardships that Irish people faced. There's myths and legends that we're introduced to, that kind of shake up Irish culture and heritage. That leads into the second act, which is more about the departure and discovery. . . And how those Irish people were forced from their homes and migrated to America.

“We're introduced to different cultures along the way, and how those cultures really join forces with Irish dance to demonstrate the diversity. It's a celebration of all those cultures coming together.”

The dance and on-stage performances are extraordinary, but it's hard to consider them without first acknowledging the pulsing, rich, emotional soundtrack of 'Riverdance', composed by Bill Whelan. It has even won a GRAMMY Award.

It manages to capture all of the show's elements through the power of music – with booming percussion to light string orchestrations and divine wind instruments, it's a score which paints all the colours of the rainbow to further captivate audiences.

“It's unlike anything I've ever heard before,” Kieran gushes. “The dynamics, from the way the drums complement the fiddle, from the way the fiddle complements the saxophones. . . Everything just works perfect.”

Riverdance line 1

“The way that the first number 'Reel Around The Sun' starts, it starts slow and builds up. . . And toward the end it's this incredible, fast-paced piece of music where everyone's playing together and everyone's on stage. That's just one of the numbers. Across the whole show, there's so many different elements, from something that's so subtle to something that's so fast-paced, and everyone's playing together. The dynamics to it are beautiful.”

There's phenomenal power, grace and energy surging through the veins of 'Riverdance' – its presence in the zeitgeist is undeniably full, and always has been. Kieran believes its grip on the world is in large part due to its wide appeal.

“It has something for everyone, essentially. There's all the different styles of dance, we have world-class dancers, from Irish dancing, to American tappers, to flamenco dancing, to a dervish folk ensemble. . . There's nothing like 'Riverdance'.”

“In my eyes, without being bias, this to me really is the best Irish dance show in the world. I don't think there is anything like it. From the music being so iconic and life-changing in a sense, to the rhythms that come from the world-class dancers.

“I don't think there's anything out there like this.”

Riverdance 25th Anniversary 2024 Australia Tour Dates

2-3 April – RAC Arena (Perth)
6-8 April – Margaret Court Arena (Melbourne)
10-11 April – Brisbane Entertainment Centre
13-14 April – Aware Super Theatre (Sydney)

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