For Michael and Matthew Gardiner, they were born into Irish dancing. “Both of our parents are Irish. They originally moved to Denver just to try it out but ended up staying for about 15 years, they loved it so much,” older brother Michael Gardiner said. “It was so important for them, as an Irish family living away from Ireland, that we have some Irish culture growing up.” Irish music would have been their parents’ first choice, but the music scene wasn’t booming in Denver at the time. So, Irish dancing was the next way to go.
“I started by going and watching my sister’s classes, and I joined when I was about four years old. By the time Matthew came along, he just didn’t know anything else,” Michael said. “I really had no choice,” younger brother Matthew Gardiner added.
Both brothers attended The Wick School of Irish Dance in Denver. “There’s definitely a big community for Irish dancing in the area. Even now, Irish dancing in America is really flourishing,” Matthew said. The family danced and competed in the Denver area for about six years before moving back to Ireland.
In Ireland, both brothers went on to have massive careers. After studying at the renowned Hession School, Michael obtained two World Championship titles and his brother Matthew won three. The brothers created Irish dancing history when they won a set of respective World titles in the same year.
Michael joined the Riverdance company in 2015 and Matthew came along in 2017. But there’s no competition between these brothers, only joy. “Matthew passed his audition just like I did, but the only reason he didn’t join Riverdance at the time was because he was too young. I went on touring for a couple of years and then Matthew was able to join me,” Michael explained. “It’s been such a blessing and so amazing to tour together. It’s something that we always wanted to do and now we’re able to live it.”
Some Riverdance audience members might recognize these brothers from their very popular social media channels. “One of our main missions is to showcase how modern Irish dancing can be. It doesn’t just have to be to Irish music. I think people love seeing us dance to Eminem and Ed Sheeran,” Michael said. “Like with our parents, and how important it was with them for us to experience Irish culture growing up, it’s a really great feeling to share our culture on social media with the next generation. We’re so very proud of it.”
But there is always a special feeling that accompanies stepping onto a Riverdance stage. “Just sharing our culture with audiences and spreading joy is so special, especially when we’re doing it in person. On our social media, it’s different because there is only the camera – we call it a virtual stage,” Matthew said.
And stepping foot onto the Buell Theatre stage to perform as leads in Denver is a full-circle moment for both brothers. “We are the first set of brothers to ever be leads in the Riverdance company. We are so fortunate to tour at the same time, together, and return to home to Denver as leads. We first saw Riverdance in Denver when I was maybe seven and Matthew was only three. It’s an exciting and emotional opportunity for us,” Michael said. Their parents will be flying in to watch them perform, joined by family and friends still living in the Denver area, and their dance teacher from the Wick School will be in attendance as well. It will be an extraordinary reunion for an entire community, and a performance none will soon forget.