On Stage

Lord of the Dance

Irish immersion at the Mount Baker Theatre

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Until recently, I was under the impression Michael Flatley was a born and bred Irishman.

It was only when I started doing a little research about the 54-year-old Lord of the Dance creator that I realized that although the hugely successful dancer and choreographer—not to mention award-winning flautist—is indeed the son of Irish immigrants, his birthplace was Chicago, Ill.

The fact that Flatley wasn’t raised in Ireland doesn’t seem to have hindered his career in the slightest. After starting dance lessons at age 12, he went on to become the first non-European to win the World Championships for Irish dance and eventually created the original Riverdance. In 1996, after leaving the show due to creative differences, Flatley debuted the aforementioned Lord of the Dance—the Irish music and dance production he created and starred in that brought him worldwide fame and eventually made him the highest paid dancer in the world (in 2000 he was earning as much as $1.6 million per week).

More than 15 years after his high-stepping, cross-cultural extravaganza first hit the world’s stages, Flatley is still sharing his many talents. And, although he won’t be front and center when his touring show makes its way to Bellingham for an April 5 show at the Mount Baker Theatre, his visions will still be the ones audiences will see when they take their seats and the lights come up on another world.

In addition to choreographing the production—which tells a classic tale of good versus evil based on mythical Irish folklore and features a battle with the Lord of the Dance taking on the ominously named Don Dorcha, the Lord of Darkness—Flatley handpicked the cast of more than 40 dancers and conceptualized and staged the show from start to finish.

“Battle lines are drawn, passions ignite and a love story fueled by the dramatic leaps and turns of dancers’ bodies begins to build against a backdrop of Celtic rhythm,” Flatley says of the production. “Fans can expect 21 scenes of precision dancing, dramatic music, colorful wardrobes and state-of-the-art staging and lighting. Irish dance lovers and music fans alike will experience the engaging, rhythmic adventures that have helped catapult Celtic dance mania and Irish dancing into the global spotlight.”

Those who’ve seen Lord of the Dance before—joining the 60 million people who can lay claim to watching the action-packed performance at one time or another—can rest assured that they’ll be getting something a little different. Revised lighting and set designs, costuming changes and a set featuring an LED wall are part of the refreshed production.

While you’re there, ponder how a guy born in the United States managed to make Irish dance so intriguing to so many people. But don’t spend too long on the conundrum, as you’ll have a lot to pay attention to—thanks to Flatley, who apparently really is the “lord of the dance.”

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