`Riverdance' does Eurodance at launch of Frankfurt bank


Riverdance, the original and hugely successful Irish dance extravaganza, becomes Eurodance today when it performs at the launch of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt this afternoon.

The money-spinning dance troupe will step out for an audience which will include the European Commissioner, Mr Jacques Santer, the German Chancellor, Dr Helmut Kohl, and the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair.

Riverdance began as an interval diversion during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, when it captured the public imagination. It went on to earn a tidy nest-egg of ECUs for its originators, Ms Moya Doherty and Mr John McColgan.

The single currency issue hasn't quite swept Europe off its feet in the same way, but by tapping into the enormous appeal of Riverdance, European leaders may be hoping to glide gracefully into monetary union.

Today's event, at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt-am-Main, is the inauguration ceremony for the European System of Central Banks, and not the actual launch of the euro.

The welcoming address will be delivered by the President of the European Central Bank, Mr Wim F. Duisenberg, at 11 a.m. Mr Blair, who is ending his term as President of the European Council, will also give a speech. Other dignitaries expected to attend are the President of the European Parliament, Mr Jose-Maria Gil-Robles, and the Chancellor of Austria, Mr Viktor Klima.

The Riverdance performance is led by principal dancers Breandan de Gallai and Joanne Doyle, taking the spotlight once held by Michael Flatley and Jean Butler.

The troupe performing at Frankfurt is just one of three Riverdance companies, named the Lagan, Lee and Liffey, which are simultaneously on tour. The Lagan company is currently in San Francisco, while the Lee company is opening in Toronto tomorrow, at the start of a tour which will end in New York's Radio City Music Hall in September.

Since that first six-minute Eurovision slot in 1994, more than 4 1/2 million people have seen Riverdance, and it has played more than 1,700 shows in more than 60 venues around the world. Last year the show became the world's biggest-grossing entertainment event, earning in excess of £40 million, or around 50 million euros. After today the troupe will begin an 18-month tour of Europe.