How do you like your #IrishDance: polite and airbrushed, or with explosions?
If you're reading this, chances are you prefer the latter. Good.
Because today's production journal entry is all about fire.
Lord of the Dance is a show forged in fire. Built in the white-hot fury and raw urgency of an artist who had been removed from his first show and had to watch them go off with his art form in their hands, Lord of the Dance has always had a chip on its shoulder. Everything about this show is bigger, louder, crazier, and frankly way more exciting. Despite being the biggest-selling dance show of all time, Lord of the Dance has never let go of its identity as the unfairly-maligned underdog, and thus the show delights in taking sledgehammers to ivory towers.
You can't have pyrotechnics in an Irish dance show, they said. You can't stage Irish dance for arenas and stadiums. You can't have people taking off their shirts and playing up the raw sex appeal that naturally happens between human beings.
Just one thing, though: who are "they"?
The ethos of Lord of the Dance is all about going faster, being stronger, constantly upping the ante. Only the finest Irish dancers in the world can play here. Because this show is a title fight: you walk into a crucible of fire, and by God you emerge out the other side. The audience celebrates this triumph. They see you putting it all out there on the line, and they know it's genuine.
This isn't a polite evening of theatre; this is a hardcore title fight.
And when we're in a country where we can legally have pyrotechnics? Oh baby.
This isn't as easy as it sounds. Like it or not, you're setting off controlled detonations in very close proximity to human beings. They don't train you for this when you're in competition dancing. Chances are fairly decent that your local feis probably doesn't have fire geysers and explosions. (If it does, let me know, because that's one feis I'd love to attend.)
The pyro just adds a certain rock element to the show. When I saw the Feet of Flames World Tour at the turn of the millennium, there was *a lot* of pyro. Heck, if they could've justified shoehorning pyro into the Whispering Wind flute solo with Bernadette Flynn sleeping onstage, they probably would have. And it would have been awesome. I was hanging out with Cathal Keaney during lineup the other day, and we were joking that we should just have random pyro in every number. Pyro in the Lament. Pyro in Breakout. Pyro in Celtic Dream.
You know you want a slip jig with explosions. Admit it.
Naturally, when we're livestreaming the show from backstage on Dancelord TV (twitch.tv/lordofthedance), we want to give you a glimpse of the fireworks. So we put a GoPro on Declan Durning the other night when he was playing the Dark Lord, and we carefully grabbed some footage from the upstage staircase during Execution.
I say "carefully" not because of the need to stay hidden -- the cameras themselves are tiny and extremely difficult to see from the audience, even if you know what to look for -- but because one of the flame geysers was literally right in front of the camera.
It's an interesting experience to be standing so close to a pyro effect that you can feel the heat spilling off it. Even in the live chat room, the fans were commenting on how they were backing away nervously from their computer screens. For a moment, despite all the safety precautions, I really did wonder if I'd placed the camera too close, and the fire would melt the electronics.
In reality? Everything was fine and I was in no danger. Looked freaking cool on camera, though!
The real fun, though, is the kill shot in Execution when Don Dorcha takes out the Lord of the Dance. That's not just a flame geyser; that's a legit *explosion.* It wouldn't surprise me if the people in the front row felt the heat from that one. And remember, whomever is playing the Lord of the Dance -- on the night we were filming, it was Cathal -- is standing *right there* as it goes off.
The hilarious part, though, is the Dancelord TV chat room. Because Twitch has a lot of younger people on it who play video games -- and that night a lot of them had tuned in to watch -- as soon as the pyro cues went off (especially the last one), the chat room was filled with comments like, "MICHAEL BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!"
This actually cracked me up on camera. Michael Bay is famous for gratuitous explosions in films, but there's also a particular video game I'm fond of which has an in-world achievement called "Michael Bay!" when you set off a massive explosion. So now, every time the Lord of the Dance gets blown up, I can't help but think, "Michael Baaaaaaaaaaaaay!" in my head...
Every single night, Lord of the Dance is an electrifying show to behold. Audiences all over the world respond to it with unbridled joy. And now, with the pyro, the full rock-concert effect is on.
Germany -- let's dance.