And so it shall end the way it began: with mini-skirted colleens and leather-panted boyos stomping their feet while the audience cheers.

Yes, the big news is that Riverdance — the combination of New Age Irish music, rapid-fire footwork, folksy charm and G-rated sex appeal, which has been pleasing audiences for 15 years — is planning to hang up its shoes ... sort of.

The production that starts performances May 19 at the Canon Theatre is being billed as its “farewell tour” and it’s wending its way through every city the show has ever played in Europe and North America, just to say goodbye.

But is this a genuine last kick at the can? Or is it like the tours that Charles Aznavour and Cher keep announcing, only to return as regularly as Wiarton Willie does each Feb. 2?

“No, this is the real thing,” insists Julian Erskine, the senior executive producer of all things Riverdance. “There are no plans to return to any of these venues in the immediate future.”

But it doesn’t mean that those Gaelic feet will go tapping off into the twilight. Far from it.

“Riverdance is moving into new territories," says Erskine. “Just as Europe and North America opened up to us 15 years ago, the Far East is opening up to us now. We tried to get into Asia, South America and Africa before, but we never made it. Now the time is right.”

While it's true that some fans will shed a shamrock-shaped tear over its departure, a lot of other people will sigh with relief.

Riverdance became such a huge success so quickly and spawned so many imitators, it was only natural it should also become the butt of endless jokes. As the years rolled on, it seemed like every TV show took a shot at Riverdance, from Family Guy to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Then last year, at the Eurovision Song Contest, an Irish children’s entertainer named Dustin the Turkey brought down the house when he sang, “Give us another chance, we’re sorry for Riverdance!”

The location was significant because it was at Eurovision in 1994 when Riverdance first burst up on an unsuspecting world and turned step-dancing from a folk hobby to a world obsession. The brainchild of producers Moya Doherty and John McColgan, the original impetus behind Riverdance was the need to combine traditional Irish culture with a more modern view of the country itself.

“There was a new Ireland, a more sophisticated Ireland, and we’re proud to speak to that,” says Erskine proudly.

Just the facts
• What: Riverdance
• When: May 19 to June 21
• Where: Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St.
• Tickets: $40 to $99 at 416-872-1212 or

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