Over the weekend, I took my parents to see Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, the successful Irish step dancing show, during its recent tour stop in Cleveland. The show follows a loose—and I do mean loose—story based on the Lord of the Dance and his epic battle against Don Dorcha, the dark rival through dance, acting, and a bit of Irish fiddle and vocal solos. The story doesn’t hold together very well, the performers who aren’t dancers are mediocre at best, and the lasers and LED “sets” are pretty simple for $60 per ticket, but most of that doesn’t matter if you think of the whole thing as a vehicle for the fast-paced Irish stepdancing. I imagine it would be pretty difficult for dancers of any caliber to perform two straight hours of that type of dance so I accept the other “stuff” as the glue to get from one number to another.
The dancer playing the Lord in our particular production was Bobby Hodges (pictured above), a 21-year-old English dancer who joined the troupe at age 18. Within his first year, he scored the role of the Lord and boy, does he ever deserve it. Hodges is a spectacular dancer, highly energetic, and breathed life into what can be a very stagnant show. Ciaran Plummer, his dark counterpart, was also excellent, and the inevitable “duel” between the two was one of the highlights of the performance.
The fiddlers and vocalist portraying Erin the Goddess were significantly less enjoyable. None of the three were spectacular entertainers and their performance lacked in energy and genuine enthusiasm. Some of this may have been due to the fact that we attended a matinée which always seem to have casts who are less into it, but they still didn’t come close to being the best part of the show.
On the whole, Lord of the Dance is something akin to Vegas-style spectacles, highly commercialized and not always genuine. It also feels way overpriced given that most of us would be happy to pass on more than half of what was presented (singing, fiddling, and the slower solo dance numbers) and there wasn’t even so much as a live instrumentalist in the house outside of the two fiddlers. That said, I could have watched three hours of the ensemble stepdance numbers—they’re fast, fun, and the dancers are clearly masters of their craft. I will also say that I’m incredibly impressed that Michael Flatley took such a niche style of dance and gave it international demand; I can’t think of any other regional style of dance which is as well known or commands such a high ticket price from the average person.
So, if you’re able to get a deal on a ticket, Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance is worth going to, but if not, save the dollars and head to a local Irish or Scottish arts festival this summer and catch some of the amateur stepdancing or Highland dancing instead. You’ll likely enjoy it as much, get a more authentic Irish or Scottish experience, and support some of the new dancers on the scene as well.
(Photo credit: Orlando Sentinel)