Out dancer Greg Molony is living his lifelong ambition: Stomping it worldwide in Riverdance

Twenty years ago, Greg Molony was parked in front of his family’s TV set, engrossed in the fast, furious footwork of a dance special on PBS. He was only 4 years old, but he made a decision then and there. He turned to his parents and said simply, “I want to do that.”

Molony’s parents signed him up for dance lessons immediately, and they paid off.

That TV show was the original Riverdance, which introduced Michael Flatley’s distinctly energetic style to a wide audience. Now, two decades later, Molony is indeed doing that. He’s a troupe member of Riverdance’s celebratory 20th anniversary tour, which steps into the Winspear Opera House on March 20 for a five-day, eight performance stop.

Riverdance is perhaps the best-known portrayal of Irish step dancing — a style in which the dancer keeps their upper body seemingly rigid while engaging in a series of magically precise, quick movements of the feet. The Riverdance performers work mainly as an ensemble, and the effect is one of total synchronicity — a whirl of dramatic stomps and steps. Molony loved it immediately, and that affection has never stopped.

“It was the music and everyone standing in the line and the noise — everyone working together,” says the out hoofer. “I wanted to learn how to do it right away.”

Molony says Irish dancing is the only kind of dancing he’s ever wanted to do, and he’s stuck to it. After attending the Martin Percival School of Irish Dance, he competed in a number of high-level Irish dance competitions, racking up three Western USA regional titles and a top-five spot at the North American championship. He’s also competed on the international level, and was the lead dancer for three world tours with the National Dance Company of Ireland’s production of Rhythm of the Dance.

His role in Riverdance brings it all back to the beginning.

“It’s one of the biggest adrenaline rushes, finally getting to do something I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” he says. “It’s euphoria.”

The euphoria comes with a lot of hard work: 10-hour rehearsal days, plus daily “rotations,” in which the troupe goes through each routine to ensure they are tightly synchronized. There also is a lot of work off the stage: “pushups, situps, squats, strength training, abs,” Molony says, ticking off just a few of the types of workouts each dancer must endure.

“It’s tough when you first come to Riverdance,” he says. “It really pushes you. You have to make sure you take care of yourself.”

Despite the challenges — or maybe because of them — the troupe has bonded during rare bits of downtime, catching movies, sightseeing and grabbing dinner. Molony fondly recalled a recent occasion, when the troupe celebrated a fellow dancer’s birthday by dressing as farmers, in honor of the farm he grew up on back in Ireland. “We’re all a really big family,” Molony says. “You leave your family at home, so everyone becomes your brother or your sister. We all look out for each other.”

While Riverdance has made some costume and lighting changes, the show remains very true to the original. The first half is about Irish mythology; the second follows the story of the Irish coming to America. Audience members can expect two tap dancers, a Russian dancer and a Flamenco dancer to complement the Irish dancing.

“It’s such an exciting show,” Molony says. “For me, this goes back to why I started dancing. Every single night I go out on stage, it gives me goosebumps.”   

— Jonanna Widner