In 1994 I watched (along with millions of others around the world) as Michael Flatley, Jean Butler and a troop of incredible dancers performed a new take on Irish dancing during the interval show at the Eurovision Song Contest in Ireland. A rare moment where the interval act eclipsed the main show, Riverdance went on to become a worldwide sensation.
I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance debuted on July 2nd, 1996 and 25 years later, I sat in The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham as the next generation of dancers, singers and instrumentalists (most of who weren’t even born during the original performance) brought Lord of the Dance to life on stage.
With choreography by Michael Flatley and music by Gerard Fahy, Lord of the Dance is a visual spectacle from the start, with video projections and two levels in what is essentially a very basic set. With themes of good versus evil, heaven and hell and Celtic mythology, we are taken through a series of stories as we are introduced to the characters, from the playful Spirit (Cassidy Ludwig), Lord of the Dance (Cathal Keaney), The Dark Lord (Zoltan Papp), Morrighan the Temptress (Andrea Papp Kren), and the male and female dance troupes, culminating in a very West Side Story-esque final duel that left the audience cheering in their seats. Between the dance movements were musical interludes, with outstanding fiddle playing from Giada Costenaro Cunningham and Aisling Sage and beautiful vocal performances from Celyn Catwright as Erin the Goddess.
The whole show was performed with complete accuracy, precision, synchronisation and boundless energy – there wasn’t a single missed step or a dropped note, with the eyes and ears treated to a performance of sheer beauty. The performers clearly enjoyed every second, many of them whooping and cheering while dancing, encouraging the audience to do the same.
Lord of the Dance is a relatively short show, which would be much shorter had there not been repetition of several elements – The Sprite’s performance of the Lord of the Dance melody happened 3 times – and there was a video performance from Flatley himself in the second half which wasn’t totally relevant to the show itself, but for anyone (like me) who has long admired the skill and talents of this style of dance and everything that Flatley has created, it’s an evening well spent.