Hackney hosts Irish dancing internet hit for St Patrick’s Day

Irish phenomenon Riverdance has made fancy footwork and flying legs famous since the early 90s. But for two of its young stars performing in Hackney on St Patrick’s Day this week - it’s all in the hands.

This time last year, Peter Harding was working in marketing at the Hackney Empire theatre in Mare Street. This week sees his return - as one half of a dancing duo that has just taken the US by storm.

Peter and his partner Suzanne Cleary joined Riverdance when they were 17, touring the world as part of the Irish entertainment phenomenon. But they tired of its traditional image and strict routines.

“We decided we were fed up with the curly wigs and the velvet costumes – all the looking back,” she Peter, lives in Broadway Market.

“We wanted to make Irish dancing cool.”

The product of their Irish dancing revolution - Up & Over It - premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2009. And one part of the show in particular caught the world’s eye.

“We take Irish dancing and put it in different contexts,” said Peter.

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“One was a conversation, a domestic disagreement, over a table using our hands. It was just one part of the show but a part that everybody loved.”

Videos of the hand dancing – accompanied by chart hits along with the sound of knuckles hitting wood - have since attracted more than 6 million viewers online. The electro-pop pair have also appeared on CNN, ABC and Good Morning America, and they currently star in a MacDonalds coffee advert in the US.

“We have always practised our moves with our hands,” said Peter.

“It’s the same with any kind of dancing. It does hurt but when you are performing you don’t really feel it.”

Up & Over It comes to the Hackney Empire on Thursday March 18.

“We’re really excited. We absolutely love the Empire,” said Peter.