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"Riverdance" high-stepping its way into the sunset

for Journal Register Newspapers

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On April 30, 1994, "Riverdance" premiered as a seven-minute blast of Irish stepdancing at that year's Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin.

And the exuberant reaction it received gave its producers an idea...

"Riverdance" went on to become a full-fledged stage show, seen by millions in theaters around the world, including China's Great Wall and Moscow's Red Square, and on public television broadcasts. It turned its lead dancers, Jean Butler and Michael Flatley -- who went on to start his own show, "Lord of the Dance" -- into stars and turned Irish dancing into a popular extra-curricular youth activity.

And now it's saying goodbye with a final appearance in Detroit this weekend -- until, of course, its inevitable comeback. But until that point, let's wish "Riverdance" a fond [i]slan leat[/i] by recalling a dozen of its most notable feats "Riverdance" during its 17-year run:

* Opened in February 1995 in Dublin, "Riverdance" sold more than 120,000 tickets during its five-week run before moving London that June. There it grew from 10 scheduled performances to 151 that year and was attended by Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

* Riverdance has played more than 10,000 performances.

* It's been seen by more than 22 million people in more than 350 venues in 40 countries, and across four continents.

* The show companies have traveled a combined 600,000 miles.

* More than two billion people have seen Riverdance TV broadcasts

* The 1997 album "Riverdance: Music From the Show" has sold more than three million copies and won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 1996.

* "Riverdance's" video titles -- "Riverdance -- The Show" (1998), "Riverdance -- Live From New York City" (1998), "Riverdance: The New Show" ?? "Riverdance -- Live From Geneva" (2003) "The Best of Riverdance" (2005), "Riverdance: Live From Beijing" (2011) -- have sold more than 10 million copies.

* "Riverdance's" initial engagement in 1996 at New York's Radio City Music Hall set a sales record for souvenir merchandise.

* Three "Riverdance" companies currently tour the word -- The Shannon in North America, The Moy in Asia and Australia and, during the summers, The Moy in Ireland. Each company has 50 cast and crew members.

* "Riverdance" has employed more than 1,500 Irish dancers, who have worn some 7,000 pairs of dance shoes and 12,000 costumes and used 40,000 boxes of tissues and 45,000 rolls of self-grip tape and rehearsed more than 15,000 hours.

* There have been 39 marriages between "Riverdance" cast members.

* Other "Riverdance" statistics: 200,000 gallons of water, 60,000 gallons of Gatorade and consumed by the companies; 1.7 million show programs and 284,000 souvenir T-shirs sold; 16,240 guitar, bass and fiddle strings replaced; 5.5 million pounds of dry ice used for smoke effects.

"Riverdance" performs at 8 p.m. Friday, April 6, and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $20.50-$75.50. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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