Riverdance Fashion

It’s always a scary thing to look back over a 20 years span of life… but recent events like Michael Flatley’s farewell tour and last year’s Riverdance anniversary seem to bring it all back as if it was yesterday!..
So I want to share my Riverdance memories with you…

I will always remember that night, when shortly after having moved to Ireland, I was having a rare cosy night off from the pub I was working in at the time, with my mum who had visited from France. We settled down together by the fire to watch the Eurovision song contest!! As everyone does, I popped to the kitchen to make a cup of tea at the interval… but I hear my mum shouting out at me “Come back. Come back!…there is something extraordinary going on!!!”…
Thankfully for me, this first ever performance of ‘Riverdance’ during the interval of the Eurovision was such a success that they repeated it again!! And I saw for myself this extraordinary dance that has amazed the world ever since!!! And even today, whenever I hear those few bars of music my heart leaps up and I have to log on to youtube and watch it again!!…
So imagine my astonishment when a few years later… as I had embarked on another adventure by that time i.e. self –employment in the craft and fashion area, handpainting silks and rich velvets and making clothes with them, when a lady came to me at the RDS Xmas show where I was exhibiting and said to me: “I am head of costume at Ardmore Studios and a friend of Joan Bergin. She is designing the new Riverdance costumes and she is looking for exactly the kind of thing you do…here is her phone number, ring her from me and get her to come and see it for herself!”…
I was a bit daunted but made the call, and Joan did show a few days later, looked at the stand and lifted a swirl patterned hand devore velvet dress, in multi shaded emerald greens and said, “yes, that is the colour and hand-devore motif I want for the Riverdance lead-dancer’s costume, will you come to our HQ and discuss working for us on this!”
Well… the rest is history! Ever since that memorable encounter, we’ve been proudly making the rebaptised Riverdance Green hand-devore, hand-painted silk velvet that has been on Riverdance posters and shows all over the world!… 

Riverdance green devore velvet

So here’s a little information on the Riverdance Green Devore velvet:
The hand-painted colour (that is painted by myself), with it’s mix of 10 different shades of green, and the swirl pattern in the hand-devore silk velvet (that is painstakingly drawn and burned out by my mum Christine), inspired by the Newgrange carvings and the Triskel celtic patterns , is an obvious homage to Ireland’s landscape and history.
As Joan says in this lovely article : http://entertainment.ie/theatre/feature/Riverdance-Interview-with-Costume-Designer-Joan-Bergin/210/1477.htm , the spirit of Ireland was enjoying a fabulous revival at the time and people were extraordinarily appreciative of craft, and sensitive to textures and colours, especially if they were made by hand. So she went in search of the artists and craftsmen who could best express her new vision for a show that had become a symbol of Irish culture all over the world.

Arts and Craft, a way of living:
Le vent

La joie
As someone who was reared with tapestries of Isadora Duncan dancing hanging on the wall (see left tapestries of La joie and Le vent, made by my great-grandmother Emilie from sketches by Jules Grandjouan), who had seen my grandmothers and mother knit, crochet, embroider and sew, I was becoming more and more convinced that this sort of Arts and Craft approach to life was really what I needed in order to give meaning to my own life. In that sense, the move to Ireland was the thing that enabled me to realize that dream… Even though I never became a dancer as my first wish had been, I had found great release in painting, drawing and silk painting. So much so, that I then started making clothes with my fabrics – and this was the last step towards joining together my twin aspirations: movement and art! Clothes are in some way moving sculptures and my continued work on flow and the use of bias-cut which sculpts the figure while allowing movement, is in direct line with this initial urge. And even though I have moved on to other territories with my bridal wear, I am still very proud and thankful for having been part of this very special time of artistic opening in Ireland’s recent history. Of course, I am still part of this Arts and Craft slow movement as I still hand make with my mum Christine, all the beautiful wedding dresses we produce each year. And so maybe the strange fact that two French ladies are so closely connected to something that has summed up Irishness in the last 20 years, is not so strange after all… but a tribute to this generous adoptive land that has enabled us to realize our dreams and transmit a spirit that has given us the strength to become ourselves.
Thank you for reading this and sharing these happy memories with me!

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