Most of the dancers in “Heartbeat of Home” were toddlers who were just starting dance class when “Riverdance” came out. They learned Irish dance as part of a broader dance culture, and that training has helped the show blast past previous limitations, Doherty said.
“They live in an environment where the art has been pushed and explored — they’re athletes now,” she said.
Doherty found this new generation of dancers in a very modern way: an online video audition.
“We got them to do it somewhere that reflected the heartbeat of their home,” Doherty said, noting that the show chose 10 dancers from around the world based on their online auditions. “Many of them have no connection to Ireland, which is unusual, but they’re steeped in (Irish dance) as an art form and as a culture form.”
Doherty was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the online applicants. The show had about 300 online auditions, and many of the applicants drummed up their own support on social media.
“We were not sure what the standard would be, and we were quite staggered,” she said.
Twenty applicants — 10 chosen by professionals and 10 picked by online voters — were flown to Ireland to audition live based on the strength of their videos. Other candidates were invited to the live auditions, provided they got themselves to Ireland with their own funds.
Of the 20 that got a free trip, eight were selected for the dance troupe.
One dancer whose trip to Ireland wasn’t paid for was Natasia Petracic. She bought her own ticket to Ireland after her sister made the top 20. Petracic has studied dance since she was 3 and toured nationally with Australian children’s entertainment phenomenon The Wiggles when she was 7.
“I didn’t think they expected me to go,” Petracic said. “Seeing as I was from Australia, it’s a long way and a lot of money, but it’s a big opportunity and I wasn’t going to pass it up.”