Sometimes you create art by accident.
Look carefully at this photo. Have you ever seen an image of Morrighan flanked by the two lords?
You've seen the Lord of the Dance struggle between love and lust in Stolen Kiss; heck, that's even the current banner graphic we use for the show here on social media. But to my best knowledge, there's no official photo where *Morrighan* is placed center, flanked by good and evil.
It totally changes the perspective, doesn't it.
Morrighan's a fascinating character to me. Michael Flatley almost certainly based her on the Morrigan from Celtic mythology, who is mainly associated with war and fate, especially with foretelling doom, death or victory in battle. In the original iteration of Lord of the Dance, Morrighan tempts the Lord after the standoff with Don Dorcha at Hell's Kitchen, and upon being rebuffed, proceeds to conspire with the Dark Lord during Fiery Nights -- implying, but not stating outright, that she is conspiring with the Dark Lord by the events of Stolen Kiss. Dangerous Games' takes it further by showing that Morrighan is blatantly conspiring with the Dark Lord, but I find it fascinating to consider the following question:
...What if the Lord of the Dance chose Morrighan?
We know what happens in classic myth structure: temptation leads to destruction. But remember, Morrighan -- like everyone else in Planet Ireland -- is the Little Spirit's creation, and it's notable that the Little Spirit has *no* direct interaction with Morrighan at all during the show. Of the four lead characters, Morrighan is the only one left completely alone by the Little Spirit; the closest they come is the interstitial between Hell's Kitchen and Fiery Nights, but look closely: whereas the Little Spirit innocently tried to play with Don Dorcha's Warriors in the first act, here in the second act she *recognizes* Morrighan and backs away, refusing to interact.
Remember, this is a Michael Flatley show. The details are everything. And if you've never before realized that Morrighan is the only lead that has no interaction with the Little Spirit...well, now you do. So let's dive into this.
My personal theory is that Morrighan exists specifically to test the Lord of the Dance. Gatekeepers who test heroes are nothing new in the Joseph Campbell monomyth cycle, and in Lord of the Dance, the two major tests are good versus evil and love versus lust. The Lord passes the first test by standing up to the Dark Lord by himself and then having a group fight during Hell's Kitchen; the next test is immediately foreshadowed onstage with the appearance of Morrighan. (In the '98 Feet of Flames video, Saoirse is added stage left, showing her witnessing the Lord being tempted by Morrighan.)
Morrighan's test, of course, is lust. As a female character, this is the exact antithesis of the Little Spirit, *not* Saoirse. (Hence why Breakout is in the first act, showing that love doesn't have to be chaste.) There's a reason why the Little Spirit is childlike; that innocence and purity is in direct contrast to Morrighan. And yet since Morrighan is the Little Spirit's creation, there *has* to be some element of her within the Little Spirit's psyche.
Still with me? I know we're going deep here. The Little Spirit is the central character of the show's narrative, but the title of the show is LORD of the Dance; the entire show is about putting someone through a crucible of trials to see if they emerge victorious, as an example to others of how to be. And after the Lord passes the trial of lust by rejecting Morrighan, the next step in the monomyth cycle is for the hero to die or go into an underworld and be reborn with supernatural powers.
...Which is exactly what happens in the show.
And that brings us back to Morrighan. The question is this: is she consciously aware of the role she has to play?
Such self-awareness is nothing new in myth cycle. In Greek myth, Sisyphus was condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain for all eternity, only to lose control of it right before reaching the summit, then go all the way back down and try again. He *knew* this was his fate. He was in on the joke. But he had to play his part anyway.
(Sidebar: this is one of the reasons I love Zoltan Papp's reaction onstage as the Dark Lord when the Little Spirit intervenes during the duel to rescue the defeated Lord. Zoltan throws his hands up into the air in frustration, as if to say, "Oh, come ON! Again!? Haven't I done enough to prove myself THIS time?" The Dark Lord, all power and aggression, can never win, yet he's doomed to keep trying. And he's in on the joke.)
I honestly believe Morrighan is in on the joke as well. How many other would-be heroes have failed her test? In Celtic myth, the Morrigan is a phantom queen who encourages warriors to do brave deeds and serves as a guardian of the people; only true heroes may pass her. In the show, it's reasonable to extrapolate that those who do not pass Morrighan's tests in the show are condemned specifically because they are not strong enough to protect the people and the land, and she uses Don Dorcha to destroy them. (Which is why, with each iteration of the show, the Dark Lord seems to get more and more powerful. He craves power for its own sake, which is why he can never be the true Lord, but is richly rewarded with exactly what he wants for doing his part by serving his curse.)
You don't necessarily think about these things on a surface level. At the surface, this is a "simple" story of good versus evil and love versus lust. It's loud, proud, and fun to watch. But there's *a lot* going on underneath the surface, working on your subconscious, if you're paying attention.
Which is why this photograph is so interesting. By placing Morrighan at the center, your whole point of view changes. And as Obi-Wan famously told Luke in another myth cycle, "You're going to discover that many of the truths we cling to depend entirely on our own point of view."
Or, if you prefer, it's just an entertaining pic of James Keegan, Andrea Papp-Kren, and Zoltan Papp backstage during intermission. That's fine too. We snapped it in a hurry, right before Zoltan had to go onstage to ambush Jess Judge. So if you see it as just a fun bit of internet ephemera, that's totally cool. The show can be enjoyed on multiple levels, all of which are valid.
For me, personally? I think Michael Flatley doesn't get anywhere *near* the level of artistic credit he deserves as a storyteller. Commercial success, sure -- this is the biggest-selling dance show of all time, after all -- but how many entertainment phenomena can lay claim to universally captivating all ages, cultures, genders, ethnicities, etc. for nearly a quarter of a century? *That's* a gift.
And, hopefully, that gift inspires you. Because that's Michael's message: if you have a dream, and you're willing to work for it, you *can* have it, whatever it is.