Niamh Roddy was only 18 when she joined "Riverdance - the Show."
That was about a year ago. Now the Irish-born dancer is one of the principals of the musical-variety phenomenon of the decade."I had always danced," Roddy said in her mild Irish accent during a phone call from Spokane, Wash. "But it was as a hobby at first. Then I started doing contests and such. But I never thought I would be dancing in a show of this level."
The critically acclaimed and award-winning "Riverdance - the Show" will have its leaping, stamping Utah premiere during a two-week run at Kingsbury Hall beginning Tuesday, April 21. Evening curtain is 8 p.m.
Roddy began her dancing career when she was 4. It helped that her parents were the directors of their own dance school in Roddy's hometown of Dundalk, County Louth, in Ireland.
"There was never a time when I had to choose to dance," Niamh (pronounced Neem) Roddy said. "Dance has always been in my blood."
Roddy joined the second "Riverdance" company when it premiered in London in 1996.
"I first auditioned in 1995," Roddy remembered. "I got a call from the company to take part in a workshop, which was actually an extended audition. I finished high school and went to the workshop while I was in college studying business. I was one of 50 dancers that made it."
That was a joyous occasion because her older brother Pat was already in the original "Riverdance - the Show" production.
"He was always supportive of me," Roddy said. "He really encouraged me to go through with auditioning. And when I did make it, he showed me around. Now, he's in Los Angeles with the other company."
There are actually three touring "Riverdance" companies, Roddy said. "When the second company was formed, the original company split in half. Now there are three companies touring the world."
The first "Riverdance" was a seven-minute act that was used as an intermission filler during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. The performance was broadcast throughout Europe to more than 300 million viewers.
As public interest grew, "Riverdance" bloomed into the current full-length extravaganza and premiered at the Point Theatre in Dublin in February 1995.
It was organized by producer Moya Doherty, directed by John McColgan, with music composed by Bill Whelan.
"I think I speak for all the dancers who are a part of this production when I say it's a dream come true," Roddy said. "Everyone is quite close, and even though we're far away from home, we found we can stick together and keep each other sane."
Still, Roddy said, the rewards of being on stage has its prices. "When I first started touring, I found I was not used to dancing so much every night. There were aches and pains that I had never felt before. And the blisters - oh, yes, the blisters."
Roddy also recalls feeling apprehensive about leaving home for her first performance in London. "It was a mere hour's flight from home, but I missed my family," she said with a youthful laugh. "But as the tour went on, I learned to fend for myself and the experiences are all a part of life, really."
As an Irish native, Roddy said she is especially proud to be part of "Riverdance" because it gives people a chance to see a part of Irish culture in a new light.
"If I came to America a few years ago without being a part of `Riverdance' and told everyone that I was an Irish dancer, there wouldn't have been much of an interest," Roddy said. "The dancing was just not recognized at the level it is today. Now, it's like, `Wow!' and the audiences have been really appreciative."
Roddy isn't kidding. Tickets have sold quickly in every city, and there is a great demand for anything related to the show.
"All that makes me want to dance more," Roddy said. "At the end of the evening you are exhausted. But once the applause begins, you don't want to end the performance. You want to keep on doing it."
Of touring, she said, "I want to keep this up as long as my legs can take it. But for long term goals, I do intend to finish my degree - eventually."