Though the cultural ambassadors from Ireland will continue stepping their way into people's hearts across the world, this will be the last time locals will have the chance to see "Riverdance."
The beloved and historic traveling Irish dance show will cease its U.S. touring after one last visit to all the major venues they've played in the past. The show will hit University Park's Bryce Jordan Center at 7:30 p.m. May 31. Tickets are $29.50 through $59.50.
"Riverdance" premiered in Dublin in February of 1995. Since then, it has been seen live by more than 22 million people in 40 countries and across four continents.
Caterina Coyne and Jason O’Neill are among the traditional Irish dancers who are part of the show, which premiered in 1995.
It was the first professional show to give dancers like Jason O'Neill, who is dancing the principal male role on tour, the chance to turn his passion into more than just a hobby.
"It just kind of had a storming affect across the world, and all Irish dancers sat up and they're ears perked up when we realized we could do this professionally," O'Neill, 26, said. "I still went to college and everything, but at the back of my mind, I wanted to dance, so it worked out perfectly for me."
O'Neill said most of the members of the "Riverdance" cast have been dancing since childhood. He added that keeping their bodies in top shape, practicing every day and eating well are all things to which each dancer needs to remain dedicated.
"It's quite high-impact dancing and quite high-energy, so it can be very tiring if you don't really look after your body," O'Neill said. "But we all give it loads on stage, and offstage we try to look after ourselves as much as possible. ...When I go home, I'll crash on the sofa for a month or so. But at the moment, I feel fine. I feel ready to go every night."
O'Neill said one of his favorite numbers in the show is called "Trading Taps" in which a battle transpires between two American tap dancers and three of the Irish dancers. He said it represents the initial animosity and lack of acceptance toward the Irish people when they first immigrated to America.
"I think it's one of my favorite numbers because you get to show off some of your skills and you also get to interact more and act a little bit," O'Neill said. "You get to have fun on stage, and the audience reaction every night is the best for any number."
Though "Riverdance" is something that "really put Ireland on the map," O'Neill said there is something for everyone and it's not necessary to know anything about Irish history or culture to enjoy the show. He added that the dancers and musicians involved with "Riverdance" are some of the best in the world.
"So regardless if you know anything about Irish culture or traditions or myth and legend, you will still kind of find something that is suitable for you," O'Neill said. "It's very global and cosmopolitan, it's not just confined to Irish culture. There is so much more to the show than just that."
Merle Frimark, North American marketing and press representative for "Riverdance", said people from around the world can identify with the show because of the immigrant aspect. She added that because there is no language barrier, people from Japan to Russia to Mexico all "get it."
"They get emotional for their own reasons," she said. "Maybe someone in their family emigrated to another country, and they get the message and are moved by message."
Frimark said "Riverdance" has been touring for 16 years, mostly in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Halting U.S. touring was done so that audiences in other parts of the world can also have the opportunity to see the show.
"While we're saying goodbye to the U.S., we're saying hello to new countries," Frimark said.
After this final U.S. tour, O'Neill said he will be going to South America, and possibly India and China. But because he and the other dancers know this is the last time "Riverdance" will be performed on American stages, they have been giving each show their all.
"We've gotten a lot of perspective on this tour," he said. "We're dancing it 120 percent every night because we know it's the last time you'll see it."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.