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LORD OF THE DANCE

Composed by Ronan Hardiman
Starring
Michael Edwards, Adam McSharry, Josephine Brennan, Louise Connolly, and Sharron Murray

A battle of good vs. evil, through music and dance.

 

 

3 stars

March 9th, 2002

 
    Excellent dancing, combined with some great fiddling, but it felt uninspired, and looked more like a variety show than a professional dance production.

Perhaps I went in with expectations raised higher than they should have been. After all, this show is made by some of the same people who created the tremendous Riverdance. I was expecting a fun, energetic show with some type of loose story to it. It took me well into the second half to figure out any plausible story. And the dancing lacked a certain inspiration and passion.

It was almost as if they were trying too hard. At the end of both halves, the lead Lord looked like he was searching for a standing ovation, when the troupe definitely didn't deserve it. The problem may indeed lie in expectations. This was not traditional Celtic dancing. There was definitely some of that, but mostly it was some new mix of styles. There was some ballet, combined with step dancing, and some strange choreography that I don't think I can even begin to describe.

The traditional stuff I enjoyed. The dancers were really good. But they were rarely great. When they were dancing together, they formed a nice troupe, but since they were all doing the same thing, it seemed rather simple. Only when the Lord of each group came out did things get a little more interesting, as there was a bit of variety, and there was more than one spot to look at.

The show seemed to be about temptation and war. There were two gangs, which performed a stylized brawl on the stage, facing off in various forms of dance competition while fighting. The fight looked very silly. Some of the moves might have been better done with fencing foils instead of bare fists. The Dark Lord eventually steals the "belt" (similar to a boxing champion's belt) by force. Fortunately, the Lord is rescued by a pixie. Lord had rescued her from the Dark Lord earlier in the show, but I don't know what her purpose was in the story.

There are also two woman dancers, one strong and serene, the other sexy and tempting, in a bright red dress (every time I say that phrase, I think of The Matrix!). Lord loves the strong one, who can dance up a storm with her maids, but the temptress sort of slinks around the stage, doing mostly ballet, enticing him. He is caught in between them, but eventually chooses the right one, of course.

The story seemed to emerge only in the second half of the show. The first half was probably setting up the stage for all this, but I didn't get it. The show opened with a great setup, very druid-like, as the pixie played the main theme on her flute, which was beautiful and terrific. I have always loved that theme, from the hymn at church. "Dance, dance, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance, said he... I will raise you up where ever you may be, for I am the Lord of the Dance, said he..." I think I'm mixing up some of the words, but it goes something like that. Anyway, it's the tune that I love, and she played it wonderfully. The other dancers were carrying torches as she played this, and almost everything was still, peaceful.

But every time the acts changed, it was like a sudden discontinuity in the show. We went from slow to fast and back again. That's fine, but there was nothing liking them. The singer did some good work in the first half, but it was her only song in the second half that I really enjoyed. The fiddlers were good, but nothing, really, compared to what Leahy did. For some reason, other than the two fiddlers and the flutist, the rest of the music seemed prerecorded. Would it not have added to the mood to have live musicians on stage, within view? Personally, I think so. Isn't that what happened during Riverdance? And it made such a big difference.

There was one dance that I really enjoyed in the second act, and that was what I refer to as the Gap ad! The dancers came out in casual Gap clothing (or the equivalent), most of the girls in pastels, the guys in softer tones. When they grabbed their partners, they didn't even match colors! But the dance was terrific, and the music great also. Unfortunately, all I could think of was those Gap commercials!

It was the act-closing performances that stole the show, though. In each case, at the end of the first and second acts, as well as the "epilog" (I can't call it an encore), the dancers really went all out. If the entire show was like that, it would have been great. They had me toe-tapping, clapping, and wanting more. And they were almost inspired. If only the Lord had danced instead of trying to whip his dancers into shape. He would move around, apparently talking to them, perhaps trying to get them to move faster, coaching them, it seemed! It was awful -better he would have stood still than do this. But I prefer that he would have danced, instead. It made him seem very conceited.

It looks like the producers were trying to make a sexy and modern version of Celtic dancing. If so, they did not succeed. When the women were dancing some great step moves, they suddenly removed their shirts, and continued dancing in sport bras. It was just odd, and didn't go with the dancing at all. The sexy temptress kept massaging her body, making it look like she was trying to show off -perhaps she was a stripper before becoming a temptress. It was disconcerting, and made a really odd contrast to the dancing style.

The music, though, was great. There are some really nice melodies and tunes present in this show. A lot of them remind me of Riverdance, but that is the nature of Celtic music. Others are very original, some more "modern" or "techno", and I didn't care for them as much. Still, I think the CD might be worth buying.

As I keep saying, there was a lot of good talent in this show. The dancers, singers and fiddlers were great. The story was nonexistent, and the different acts seemed completely disconnected. The fight choreography was horrible, but the dance-off they held was fun to watch. All in all, I was not very impressed. I've seen better, and it's hard not to compare it to Riverdance, unfortunately. I am sure that if this was my first time seeing a performance of this kind, I would have been very impressed. As it is, though, this show kept me rather neutral. At the end, half the crowd tried to give the performers a standing ovation. Half remained pointedly sitting. It was that kind of show. For the short amount of time they danced (this show was much shorter than others of its kind), and the amount of money spent, I felt we deserved more.
 
   

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