I was going to write about the Gardiner brothers for St. Patrick’s Day – what better way to help celebrate Irish culture than with a column about two brothers, both Irish dancing champions, whose pandemic videos made them TikTok stars?
But since they are both performing on the postponed US leg of the 25th anniversary ‘Riverdance’ tour, they have been very busy in the days leading up to St. Pat’s.
So I’m writing about them now because A) any day is a good day to write about the Gardiner Brothers and B) we all need a break from the 94th Academy Awards, and they were a long way off. to be there.
They danced to Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” – how on earth could two men who really know how to jig resist? – but that was in January.
It’s just one of more than 500 videos of Michael, 26, and Matthew, 23, dancing Irish to a stunning array of songs they’ve released since the COVID-19 lockdowns began. Pop and rock icons such as Queen, U2, the Bee Gees and Kool & the Gang have been given the Gardiner treatment as the two continue their efforts to expand what people think of when they think of Irish dancing.
“Irish dancing is constantly changing – [Michael] Flatley changed it using his arms,” says Michael, referring to the male lead and co-creator of the “Riverdance” record, which, after debuting during the interval of the Eurovision Song Contest 1994, went on to continued to transform the global image of the art form.
“We wanted to show what you can do with Irish dancing,” adds Matthew. “Even from a very young age, we were dancing to modern music, but not at a high level of exposure.”
What they can do is almost everything. Using traditional steps and surprisingly small portable dance boards, they perform on country roads and city streets, radiating controlled exuberance, their cool aviator undertones belied by their cheerful footwork, cadence fast in their steps. If you need a ‘timeline cleanup’, just search for ‘Gardiner brothers’.
A video of them dancing to Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ went viral in 2011, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that videos of seconds-long dances to popular and traditional music made the brothers famous. on social networks. When the separate “Riverdance” tours they were performing in were cancelled, the brothers returned to the family home in County Galway.
“We had to keep in shape,” says Matthew. “But with all the dancing schools closed, we also wanted to keep the kids interested, keep promoting Irish culture.”
They started looking for good songs to dance to and interesting places to tour; the first was much easier than the second.
“Ireland had one of the strictest lockdowns; we couldn’t go beyond 2K [kilometers] of our house,” says Michael. “Once we tried to get to a place 3,000 km away – we were like, ‘Ah, it’s only 3,000 km away. They won’t notice’ – and the Garda [police] turned us around. We tried to explain that we were dancers, but I don’t think they believed us. They probably thought, “That’s the craziest excuse yet.”
When the closures eased, the brothers were able to venture further and further afield. Their trickiest shoot, they say, was on Tawin Island in Galway Bay, where they were constantly interrupted by traffic and buffeted by the wind. It took two hours to shoot a 30-second video, they said, but it was so scenic that it became the site of some of their most popular posts, including Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ and “Gimme!” Give me ! Give me ! “.
Born in Colorado to Irish parents, the two started dancing when, as in the song “Chorus Line,” their sister went to a dance class. Michael noticed there were boys in the class, so he joined, and Matthew quickly followed. When the family moved back to County Galway, the boys, then aged 11 and 7, enrolled at the Hession School of Irish Dance and began a career of competition and performance. in 2015, they made history by each winning the world championship in their age group.
In addition to their dance career, Michael is an architect and Matthew an engineer. “So we can dance at your wedding and then build you a house,” Michael says.
But since their posts took off on TikTok, where they have 2 million followers, and Instagram (643,000), they have focused on their dancing careers, including a brand collaboration business, dancing in spots for local businesses as well as for McDonald’s and Red Bull. . They recently posted a video of the two of them dancing to Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” while reading Don Winslow’s latest novel, “City on Fire.”
“We also want to financially push what you can do with Irish dancing,” says Matthew.
“We want other dancers to see that you can make a living out of it,” says Michael. “Even if you’re not into ‘Riverdance’.”
They are in “Riverdance”, of course, and for the first time dancing in the same tour. Although the Western leg was canceled earlier this year due to COVID-19, they put on the show that launched Irish culture into the modern era in the Midwest and along the East Coast.
“We travel by bus, and we have a great system,” says Michael. “I’m lying on four seats and Matthew is sleeping on the floor.”
They still take time for videos, though; part of a recent article included the two dancing in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and they shot several videos in Washington, D.C.
“We were dancing in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and it was pretty early, but there were boats,” Matthew says. “And suddenly you hear someone shouting, ‘Are you the Gardiner brothers?’ on the other side of the water. So that was pretty awesome.