Riverdance Countess Cathleen. Photo credit: Jack Hartin © Abhann Productions
Riverdance Countess Cathleen. Photo credit: Jack Hartin © Abhann Productions

Siblings share dream as principal dancers in Riverdance

Fergus Fitzpatrick dreamed of performing in Riverdance for as long as he can remember.

“We had seen Riverdance on TV, and we were obsessed with it. It put the initial spark of dance in us,” said Fitzpatrick, who along with his sister, Anna Mai Fitzpatrick, are principal dancers in the show which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

The Fitzpatricks will be in Augusta with Riverdance at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 at the Bell Auditorium.

Fergus Fitzpatrick. Photo credit: Jack Hartin © Abhann Productions

As children, the siblings who are 18 months apart, would dance around their home in Ireland as though they were the leads in the show, mimicking the choreography they’d seen.

Since his sister was already taking dance lessons, he decided to follow her lead. From there, they began competing, but never against each other, he said. The two are their biggest cheerleaders and fans, always willing to help.

They started in local competitions and began winning them. It wasn’t long before they competed at higher levels. They competed at the international level in the United States and United Kingdom. His biggest title, however, came in 2017 when he was named the world champion in Irish dance. Soon after, he was cast in Riverdance.

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Having his sister as a castmate has been a great asset for both of them, he said.

“Being on the road with my sister has been incredible,” he said. “We get to have family — actual family — while away from our family. We’re lucky to have that because not very many people get to have that.”

And they have each other to share their good days as well as their bad ones.

Riverdance Reel around the Sun Photo credit: Jack Hartin © Abhann Productions

They’ve been part of several U.S. tours and went to China prior to the pandemic. That was an incredible experience, he said. The show translated to audiences without the need for an interpreter.

“In China, although we don’t speak their language, they still had the same connection we give out every single night. That music transports them to the heart of Ireland,” he said. “They were sitting on the edge of their seats with the fast-paced mesmerizing footwork in our steps that we were doing. They were still feeling all of the same emotions that audiences in America will still feel.”

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A bump in the road with the dream came with COVID and the lockdowns that kept theaters closed for upwards of two years in some places, leaving Fitzpatrick and the cast wondering if they’d ever dance on stage again.

During those months, he said they tried to stay together through platforms such as Zoom. It was a good time for him to learn a few other dance forms. Cast members would try out different styles and they’d learn them together.

“I love trying different types whether it’s hip hop or ballet,” said Fitzpatrick, who is trained only in Irish dance. “We practiced. We rehearsed all the time — just praying and praying that one day we’d be able to get back on the stage and do what we love. Luckily, we did.”

And now that he’s back doing what he loves, that feeling of being part of the dream has returned.

Riverdance, Anna Mai Fitzpatrick

“I’m living my dream, and I don’t say that lightly. Sometimes, it’s indescribable. It’s  more of a feeling — actually living what we wanted to live,” he said.

Some people may have seen Riverdance before, but not this Riverdance. It’s a modernization of previous versions with new music by Grammy-Award winning composer Bill Whelan.

“He’s added new nuances, new musical instruments, but it still has that same magic that captures audiences and puts them in awe every night,” he said.

Also, it has updated visuals, new screens, lights and projections as well as new costumes and new sets.

Fitzpatrick promises audiences will love the updates and the show will make their feet tap and their hearts sing.

“Countless times, audience members have been in the aisles dancing with us by the end of the show,” he said.

Tickets are $51.75-$86.50 and are available here.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnews.com. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

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