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Me and my two careers


Maria Buffini. Photo: PA wire

Maria Buffini. Photo: PA wire

Maria Buffini. Photo: PA wire

Careers in sports and the arts can be exhilarating and rewarding, both professionally and financially, but they often have a shorter lifespan than commercial or more traditional occupations.

This is especially true of jobs that are based on appearance or require great physical stamina, which is why dancers, models and sporting stars can frequently find themselves over the hill in their Thirties.

Similarly, boyband members can find that the screaming fans have moved on to the next set of good-looking charmers within a couple of years. If they're smart, they will use their popularity to forge a new career, as Boyzone's Keith Duffy did when he landed a part on Coronation Street.

For this reason, you will often find dancers with their heads in books on the international tour bus. Or models capitalising on the knowledge they have garnered through the industry to establish their own business, as in the case of Celia Holman Lee, Jackie Lavin and Andrea Roche.

Here we meet a dancer, who is currently dancing the lead in Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre, but in a few short years, could be diagnosing our troubling ailments. And we will shortly rock out to an ex-professional footballer, whose performance on stage will, hopefully, thrill us as much as it did on the field when he played for Ireland.



Lead dancer with Riverdance and graduate medical student

"I joined Riverdance after I completed a science degree at NUI, Maynooth, in 2005, and became a lead dancer with the show in 2007. During the past year, I've had time to reflect on how great an experience it is to have been a part of the show. Combining a career I love with the amazing places I have visited, people I have met, and audiences applauding every night makes for a unique and irreplaceable experience. I'm not sure that anything else could give me the feeling I get at the end of a great show.

"I will always remember the atmosphere in the room after performing for Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Ireland in 2011. Also, our recent performance for Michelle Obama was a very memorable occasion. My first lead performance in Chicago in 2007 was a highlight, and my parents flew out to see the show.

"I was very happy touring with Riverdance, but I think a turning point for me came when I broke my foot on stage at the Gaiety three years ago, and was out of action for five months. It made me realise how fleeting the nature of a dancer's career can be, and I began to think about what I was going to do long-term.


"I have always been really interested in biology, and am fascinated by how the human body works. So I began to study while on tour for the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and after I sat it last year, I was offered a place on the graduate entry programme in medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. I decided to stop touring, and began the course in September 2012.

"It was definitely a difficult transition going back to study and trying to get my brain to function again, after seven years with the show. However, because it's a graduate entry course, all of the students are a little bit older, so I didn't feel too alienated in that respect. It's also very tough getting used to having no weekly income.

"When I started the course, it was very strange for me as I suddenly had a completely sedentary lifestyle and barely had time for any exercise, never mind dancing. I really missed it. Riverdance has a Flying Squad of musicians and dancers that perform worldwide at events and corporate functions. I did some Flying Squad gigs this year, one of which was an amazing trip to India in January, which fitted in very conveniently with my study weeks! So it's great to be able to put the shoes back on and catch up with everyone at those kinds of events. Once I learned that I would be a part of the Gaiety cast for the summer, I began making a concerted effort to fit more dancing in. I hope to achieve a better balance of the two in the future.

"As I'm only in first year in medicine, the course has been mostly theory-based. We begin practical experience in August. I like the variety within medicine, as there are many different possible specialties to pursue and no two days will ever be the same. It is also exciting to think that one day I will, hopefully, be equipped with the skills to help people."

> Riverdance runs at the Gaiety Theatre until September 1. Tickets €10 to €55 from www.ticketmaster.ie enjoyING the limelight: Riverdance performer Maria Buffini, left and inset, is training to be a doctor