On April 30, 1994, the Eurovision Song Contest introduced the seven-minute Irish dance performance Riverdance, starring Michael Flatley and Jean Butler, to the world. This intermission performance in Dublin changed Irish dance forever.

In light of its success at the Eurovision Song Contest, Riverdance was expanded to a full-stage production that debuted at The Point Theatre in Dublin on February 9, 1995.

The five-week run of the first-ever Irish dance show broke records with sales of over 120,000 tickets, setting the pace for the show's phenomenal future.

As of 2022, Riverdance has played 12,340 performances, been seen live by over 28 million people in 550 venues, played throughout 48 countries across six continents, and played to a global television audience of more than 3.5 billion people. More than three million copies of the Grammy Award-winning Riverdance CD have been sold, and more than 10 million Riverdance videos and DVDs have been sold.

In 2023, Riverdance mounted a US tour, that would be followed by a tour in Ireland and Mexico.

Riverdance's long-lasting success all began with the interval performance at the 39th Eurovision Song Contest, which was being hosted in Dublin.

The piece began with the haunting vocals of the choral group Anúna followed by the arrival onstage of Jean Butler, emerging from a traditional Irish cloak to herald the beginning of a whole new style of Irish dance.

Michael Flatley, who would become better known as “The Lord of the Dance,” burst on stage, unlike any Irish dancer ever before. Their style and the onstage battle between the dancers and drummers brought something new to the Irish dance floor.

Next, Irish dancers flowed onstage in a perfectly synchronized troupe arriving with a determination and energy never seen before in Irish dance.

Produced by Moya Doherty, with music from Bill Whelan, and choreography by Michael Flatley and Jean Butler, the act seemed to eclipse the main event and lit a fire that would fuel the creation of the full stage show only nine months later – a fire that continues to burn to this day.

H/T: Riverdance.com

* Originally published in 2016, updated in April 2024.