Jean Butler feared dress would undo during first Riverdance

Jean Butler and Michael Flatley in Riverdance

The original star of Riverdance Jean Butler has revealed that she feared that her dress may come undone in a ‘Janet Jackson’ style wardrobe malfunction during the performance that made her a star.
Butler was speaking on a new RTE documentary Insiders: Riverdance to mark the 20th anniversary of the original performance.
Jean Butler and Michael Flatley in Riverdance
An estimated 300 million people were tuned in as Butler and her Irish dance partner Michael Flatley introduced the world to Riverdance. It put Irish dancing on the map and the show became a global phenomenon.
The whole cast looked fantastic and the show was spectacular but just minutes before it all began costume designer Margaret Crosse was frantically pinning Butlers off-the-shoulder dress to make sure it wouldn’t come undone.
Butler said: “I didn’t know if the dress was going to stay on me or fall off me and to complicate matters even further the floor was like an ice skating rink. It was very, very slippery.”
Crosse said: “Jean didn’t really wear the dress for rehearsals because she wanted it to be fresh and new on the night.
“It had fitted her perfectly but now when she did her steps for me the top of it flopped and I could see her boobs. It was a total disaster. I felt it in my stomach. It was the only dress. That was it. I had to get black elastic and two pins and try and secure the top of the dress.
“This was all happening at the side of the stage as they were preparing to go on.
“I ran behind her and pinned her and pulled the elastic through and put a big knot in the back and said ‘It will stay up’. It was like we all had this secret. We knew hiding in the back about the dress but the audience didn’t know.”
Ten years later Janet Jackson suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl half time show. Justin Timberlake accidently pulled off part of Jackson’s clothes to reveal her right breast. The incident caused huge controversy and became known as ‘nipplegate’.
It was even credited with being responsible for the creation of YouTube.


Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling