How Riverdance’s Anna Mai Fitzpatrick Made Her Dreams Come True
March 17, 2023

Not many people can say they achieved all of their professional dreams by 19 years old, but for Riverdance principal dancer Anna Mai Fitzpatrick, that’s exactly what happened. Fitzpatrick began Irish dancing at her primary school at just 4 years old. A dance teacher came to her class every Friday to teach the basics of the style, and it ignited a spark in her young heart. A couple years later Fitzpatrick was ready to pursue dance more seriously, and her mother (who had been a ballerina) enrolled her and her brother, Fergus, at the O’Shea School of Irish Dancing in Dublin. There, Fitzpatrick began competing as both a soloist and in a group. “It was busy,” she says. “I would travel directly from school to dance classes and would have to do homework and eat in the car. But the experience helped pave the path to where I am now.” When Fitzpatrick was 16 years old, she and her brother transferred studios once more and began working with world champion Irish dancers Nial Holly and Joanne Cavanagh. “At that point, we both knew Riverdance was our goal in the end, and we used this time to continue our competitive journey toward that goal.”

In front of a black backgound lit with textured lights, a female Irish dancer is shown mid-jump as her kelley green costume dress flies around her, her hair lifted around her face.
Anna Mai Fitzpatrick performing in Riverdance. Photo by Riverdance, courtesy Fitzpatrick.

At 19, Fitzpatrick received an email from Riverdance associate director and executive producer Padraic Moyles. The message asked if she would be interested in touring with Riverdance around the world and invited her to an in-person audition. “Of course I jumped at the opportunity,” she says. “The audition was so brief—lasting about 10 minutes in total—and suddenly I was offered my biggest dream.” She’s been with the production ever since and earned a promotion to principal in 2020. “I was backstage when I found out,” Fitzgerald says. “Padraic Moyles came up to me and said he would train me in as a principal for Riverdance and another show called Heartbeat of Home. I learned I would make my debut as a principal dancer in the famous Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End, and I almost started crying. I told my brother straightaway, and we danced for joy. It was such a pivotal moment in my career.”

Here, Fitzpatrick shares the origins of her Riverdance dreams, the mentors who have made all the difference in her life and the best things her dance teachers taught her.

The moment her biggest dream was unlocked “My mom took me to see Riverdance for the first time when I was 6 or 7 years old. I wasn’t too serious about Irish dancing just yet, but I loved the show so much I was dancing in the aisles. A lady sitting in front of us saw me, turned to my mom and said, ‘Oh, your daughter is clearly loving this.’ Then my mom looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to be up there one day.’ I remember feeling electric watching those performers onstage. It looked like something I wanted to be a part of. Now I am!”

Anna Mai Fitzpatrick performing in Riverdance. Photo by Riverdance, courtesy Fitzpatrick.

Her most influential career mentors “I have always found inspiration in my brother. We have been through the ups and downs of a competitive world, and we have had a shared goal and vision for our entire life. [Fergus joined the troupe shortly before her and is also a principal dancer in the show.] I wouldn’t be where I am today without him and his guidance. My mom has also had a huge role to play. She really was behind the scenes making everything happen. Neither of us would have been as successful as we have been without her. Even now, when I go onstage I think back to the things she used to tell me as a child. She gave me this idea that I had already accomplished what I was setting out to do, before I’d even done it. There was no doubt in her mind. That had a hugely positive impact on my self-esteem.”

The best thing her dance teachers taught her “I was taught to have confidence, and I think that’s a huge thing. Now, I challenge myself to be out of my comfort zone 80 percent of the time. If I don’t do that, then I’m not progressing. You have to let go of any fear or doubt that you might have in trying something new. Small things like caring what other people think can really prevent any kind of growth or productivity in a person, not just a dancer. If I know I have done the work internally, physically and spiritually, I am confident I can do anything.”

Her advice to dancers aspiring to a career like hers “Try to gain as much experience as you can. Work hard in the studio and compete on the weekends. For Irish dancers specifically, do as many gigs as you can so you can gain show experience. If you do that, it will pay off in some way in the future.”

Her dreams for the future “My hope and dream from here is to continue doing what I’m doing. I’m really trying to live every day at this moment in time because it is exactly what I set out to do.”

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