Directed, choreographed, designed and conceived by Michael Flatley, the King of Irish Dance presented Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games in the State Theatre, Arts Centre at Melbourne. His pyrotechnically lit show’s farewell tour arrived down under to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from first night fans on September 30, 2015.
For me this was a true deja vu experience, because together with my family I was also there when his first Lord of the Dance show arrived at the Entertainment Centre in 1996, taking the Sydney audience by storm.
On that occasion he burst onto the stage, leaping at an incredible height, bringing Irish dance out into the light.
Michael Flatley took the straight arms and lack of facial expression and revealed how the Irish are indeed full of passion, poetry, laughter and love.
In a fury of dance steps he let loose his famed 35 steps per second, a record he had already been established by the feet insured for millions of pounds. He was beyond magnificent.
Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games has sparkling new choreography, stunning costumes and special effect lighting, which add a breath-taking new dimension to the original masterpiece.
With mind boggling dancing and incredible holographic projections, one thing Michael Flatley hasn’t forgotten is what presenting glamorous entertainment for all is really about.
He’s there at the beginning with his son trying to reach the hands of a huge skeleton clock to stop time. He’s wearing white tails and they both vanish in a puff of smoke as his latest young troupe of dancers arrive on stage.
He’s also there at the end, where he does an incredible encore routine larger than life size.
Holo-Gauze allows him to battle dance with two extra versions of himself, both wearing different colour waistcoats.
It’s quite mindboggling, although it does reveal how time has changed twenty years on for the man whose body is now ravaged by injuries. While the steps may be fewer the magic and passion have truly never abated.
Confident, driven, ruthlessly self promoting you can but only admire him for his courage indeed, what the world needs is more Michael Flatley’s.
He is the man after all who singlehandedly made Irish dance sexy.
Passion is indeed integral to Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, which was all about the battle between dark and light, good and evil.
Appropriately the show included a graceful Andrea Kren, dancing robots, world champion acrobats and thirty-four of the greatest Irish champion dancers in the world, some of whom take turns in playing ‘Lord of the Dance’.
Two dancing champions Morgan Comer and Tom Cunningham playing the Lord of the Dance and the Dark Lord were both more than impressive; virtuoso dancers achieving the highest pinnacle of performance in their art form.
They deserved their thunderous applause and standing ovation.
When they took their shirts off the ladies of the audience went into meltdown, shades of Magic Mike! It was entirely over the top. There were men in stormtrooper styled costumes that flashed with green light, lovely girls in long tutus and slit white harem style costumes, a stirring singer as well as two beautiful women playing violins with great vivacity.
They were indeed highly charged, helping to give the performers on stage a break to catch their breath and change costumes in dazzling array.
Extraordinary lines of men and girls with fabulous footwork mesmerized the company. The ‘spirit’ of the dance, a young gymnast of considerable charm and amazing athleticisim playing a flute supplied a softening effect in direct contrast to the thunder of the boys tap shoes.
As an art form Irish dance should be able to be performed on just a black stage with just the dance the boys and girls are doing highlighted. I would have to say that I was entirely satisfied that if the young troupe of dancers witnessed on the Lord of the Dance opening night in Melbourne had been placed into that context, they would have certainly nailed it.
They were indeed ‘Lords of the Dance’
My elderly companion for the evening patiently waited for years to see this show, after seeing a small segment on television a decade and more ago. Her own culture is Greek and we know how much the Greeks love dancing!
She was not disappointed. Her face was lit up like a Xmas tree all evening she was so excited by what she had seen and she relived it all the way home on the tram and I doubt she would have slept a wink for hours afterwards.
For me, who is one of the initiated, well I just wanted to have a little bit more subtlety. I wanted Flatley to tone it down take it back to being all about the dance and beauty.
So in my perception many of the production elements were just too completely over the top and far away from the days when Flatley let his feet, skill and vision of its beauty do the talking.
It’s heady stuff changing people’s perceptions about what dance is all about; a powerful form of human expression through movement.
Theatrical, ceremonial, competitive, exotic, sacred and social, it is primarily a spectacle in the world of performance art and about change for the better.
Music is a large part of the lure of Irish dance and over the centuries it has grown and changed while dancers performed a jig, a reel or step dance.
Bagpipes were originally involved, and then an accordion, a fiddle or a piano kicked in.
It is easy to understand when viewing the show why Michael Flatly is reluctant to hang up his tap shoes, which it is reported he must do if he is to continue to live and enjoy many more moments.
Like an old trooper in days of yore, he just wants to keep responding to the music… one last time.
What he did do in his great career was take on the world and change its perception of what being an Irishman was all about, and for that a lot of his countrymen and women should be eternally grateful.
Sure, he’s reached the heights of fame and wealth on the back of his blockbuster shows, but isn’t that everyone’s aim to do the best they can in life for their family.
Just look how many people he’s employed along the way as he turned polite audiences into enthusiastic animated followers. And I am one.
The good thing is that he can stay in the background now as a guiding, generous and caring mentor, watching and encouraging as a new wave carry forward the idea he dared to have.
He was right. Irish dance didn’t have to remain a traditional statically performed dance form, it must be subject to change just like the rest of us…it is all about progressing forward and none of the dance companies in the world look like they did 100 years ago.
Irish dance however has become in his capable hands and through his new troupe’s stunning performances a high art form and so it now belongs to the world at large.
What a triumph, what a legacy. Can feel my feet tapping now.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games
Melbourne Arts Centre
Concert Hall QPAC
Jupiters Hotel & Casino
Capitol Theatre Sydney