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Throwback: Viral dancing seminarian duel merges tap and Irish step

Two male Irish step dancers

Reshetnikov_art | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 03/14/23

Two seminarians put on a clinic at a 2014 fundraiser dinner, dueling each other in different styles to the benefit of all.
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It’s been almost a decade, but this time of year always brings our minds back to the phenomenal dance duel between two seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, back in 2014. After a chorus of seminarians singing a round of “Give My Regards to Broadway,” Rev. David Rider, 29, of Hyde Park, New York, and the Rev. John Gibson, 28, of Milwaukee got up on a small platform and treated the audience to a display of dance that no one expected.

The show kicks into gear at about one-minute into the video above, posted to YouTube by Joan Lewis. Rider steps up onto a platform next to the chorus and begins throwing down dance moves. The audience is clearly surprised and delighted by the display, as we can see several heads pop up as the tap sounds echo through the room. As Rider is really getting into it, however, Gibson steps up to challenge him, launching into a traditional Irish step dance that complements Rider’s tap style.

The pair go back and forth for a few minutes, copying each other’s rhythms with the steps of each of their preferred styles, to show that both tap and Irish step can achieve the same results. One of our favorite parts is how the band changes the music up each time the duo switch off. When Rider dances, the piano plays what sounds like an early 20th-century rag, while the violins kick in with distinctly Irish tones for Gibson.

As the duel continues, Rider even launches into a bit of Irish step himself, to which Gibson pantomimes some tap steps for comedic effect. By the end of it the pair sync up for a rehearsed Irish step dance that gets the whole crowd up to their feet. It makes for a wonderful finale to a thrilling five minutes. 

Although the video does not have the best quality, it went viral when it was first posted, garnering a quarter of a million views in a relatively short time. After years of being online, however, the video has accumulated quite a bit of traffic, having been viewed over 3.3 million times since 2014. 

The video became so popular that the Associated Press interviewed Rider and Gibson for a report. In it, Rider explained that he saw Singing in the Rain as an adolescent and “fell in love” with tap dancing, thanks to Gene Kelly’s unmatched talent. Gibson, on the other hand, said that he came to Irish step dancing after his sister took it up as a kid. See the interview here.

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