Irish dancing has fascinated me even more since moving to Northern Ireland. While I’d heard of ‘Riverdance’, I wasn’t familiar with ‘Lord of the Dance’ until I saw Michael Flatley on ‘The Graham Norton Show’. Intrigued, I decided to catch ‘Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games’ at the Belfast Odyssey Arena with the Ticketmaster voucher that I’d won.
The quick research I did before the show revealed that Lord of the Dance is a hugely popular, sell-out show all over the world. Indeed, the Odyssey Arena was filled on Sunday evening as I sat among excited audience members.
The show itself had a slow start. After grandly opening with a large, ticking clock-face projection, it was some time before anyone came on stage and even longer still before there was any dancing. Instead, we were forced to sit through a baffling projection featuring Flatley and his son, followed by a boast about Lord of the Dance’s global success.
The Little Spirit was the first actual character to appear. Tumbling and prancing across the stage, The Little Spirit served to move the plot along – but I soon got tired of having to watch it mock-play the same piece of flute music three times, for an unnecessarily long duration each time, throughout the show.
While the dancing was superb with spell-bindingly quick footwork, the music itself was less exciting. Often, the dancers were accompanied by a short sequence repeated over and over for the course of the set. Instead, the most interesting music occurred whenever the violinist duo came on stage – the composition for their two pieces was much more complex and contrasted sharply with music from the rest of the show.
Even worse was when Girls Aloud’s Nadine Coyle appeared. Coyle is a terrible singer, with a voice that was off-key at times and struggled to hit notes on both the higher and lower register. She performed three songs, all of which were an assault on the ears.
Most of all, I hated Lord of the Dance’s video and projection backdrop. It was cheesy, lurid, hideous and detracted from the dancing – in one scene featuring a horse, my eyes were drawn away from the dancers each time the horse nodded its head!
Despite its title, there was nothing ‘dangerous’ about the performance – in fact, it is difficult to appear menacing when essentially Irish dancing to Irish music. Also, Lord of the Dance seemed to include elements from various other productions – Cirque du Soleil, Wicked, Swan Lake, West Side Story, The Matrix – but unfortunately appeared like a cheap, mishmash knockoff.
Moreover, the plot was virtually non-existent, the pacing was inconsistent (with fast sequences alternating with slower dances), and the show seemed to aim for maximum spectacle with minimum disregard for coherence between costumes and scene changes.
Flatley himself appeared for a brief sequence at the end of the show. While the crowd went wild – I suspect there were a large number of Irish dancing groupies in the audience – it was too little, too late for me. By then, my ears hurt from Coyle, my eyes were bleeding from the psychedelic backdrop and I had cringed too often and for too long for all the reasons described above.
Rapid footwork and splendid dancing notwithstanding, Lord of the Dance’s widespread popularity has never been more unfathomable.