Alana Mallon will forever be grateful to Riverdance. Because of it, she is able to travel the world doing what she loves best -- Irish step dancing.
“I remember my first competition, I remember my very first class,” Mallon says. “I started when I was three years old. It wasn’t many months later that I competed.” (And won.)
Mallon is headed to Savannah for three performances of Riverdance -- The Show on March 6 and 7 at the Johnny Mercer Theatre. It’s being presented as part of the 2006-2007 Broadway in Savannah season presented by Jam Theatricals.
Even though no one in Mallon’s family danced, she was born a natural dancer. “My teacher really pushed me at a very young age,” she says. “The neighbors danced, and my mother took us over there.
“Back then, there was no way to do this to earn a living,” Mallon says. “It wasn’t a career, it was always a hobby.”
A hobby, yes, but one that fostered fierce competition. “We competed against other Irish dancers,” Mallon says. “But it wasn’t until Riverdance came around that you could make a living dancing.”
Mallon was working for an insurance company when she got the news she’d landed a job with Riverdance. “My friend was already in the show,” she says. “I went to New York to visit her and while I was there, I auditioned.
“They called me at work to tell me I got the job,” Mallon says. “I had just about a week to go to New York. It all happened really fast.”
Since that very first competition when she was 3, Mallon has won many championships. She won competitions throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, consistently ranking in the top three at all major championships.
She also is a world champion, and consistently placed in the top ten at the world championships. She also has won several world championship medals for figure dancing.
Since joining the troupe, Mallon has toured Europe, Australia and the Far East. On the current tour, she is traveling through North America. “The only place I haven’t been is Africa,” she says.
“It’s all I wanted and more,” Mallon says. “It’s a wonderful lifestyle. I’m getting to travel and see all these different countries and it’s really a wonderful opportunity at my age see the whole world and to enjoy doing something you love.”
To those budding champions who want to emulate Mallon’s success, she says, “Just practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect.”
Marty Dowds also has been involved in Irish step dancing from a young age. “My grandmother got me involved,” he says. “It sort of grew from there and I got into the competitive side.”
Originally from Donegal, Ireland, Dowds began dancing at age 9 with the Phoenix School of Irish Dance. He has won numerous championships, including international, All-Irish, British National and World Championship competitions.
But it’s not just the competitive aspect of dancing that Dowds enjoyed. “You meet all sorts of people who you see twice a year,” he says. “It’s a really good social life. You grow as a person. It helps you open to other things.”
Dowds auditioned for Riverdance at the suggestion of a teacher. “They were having a hard time finding boys, so it was just auditions for guys,” he says. “I went and auditioned and there were 16 and they only needed two.
“I was short-listed because I was only 16, too young to go on the road,” Dowds says. “But I joined in 1997 and have been here ever since.”
Since joining Riverdance, Dowds has had some extraordinary experiences. “I was on Broadway for 18 months,” he says. “It was so amazing. Out of all my time in Riverdance, that was the best. New York is a great city.”
Dowds also has danced at the Kremlin in Moscow and on the Great Wall of China. He almost missed out on the tour to China.
“The companies were changing and I wasn’t going stay,” Dowds says. “But they called and said the show was going to China and I wanted to go to China!”
A documentary was being filmed during the tour. “We all went and danced on the Great Wall of China, which was amazing,” Dowds says.
Dowds had an extraordinary experience right here in Savannah. “I was there the first time Riverdance was there,” he says. “I learned to swim there.
“We stayed at the Radisson,” Dowds says. “It was winter and it was cold, but they had a heated pool outside. It was so nice! I definitely remember Savannah.”
No matter how many times they’ve seen Riverdance, audiences still love it. “It’s a multicultural show, with so many types of dancing and singing and music,” Dowds says. “It’s one big ball of excitement on the stage.” ƒç
Riverdance -- the Show will be presented in three performances on Tuesday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, March 7 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Savannah Civic Center’s Johnny Mercer Theatre. Tickets range from $32 to $67 and can be purchased at the box office, all civic center outlets, online at www.savannahcivic.com or by calling 651-6556.