Follow Your Dream, Day #261: When No One's Watching

Greetings from the Lordbus! Today we have a question:

What drives you?

We asked this question of Matt Smith and Zoltan Papp the other day on Dancelord TV. Matt saw Lord of the Dance on VHS as a kid, and knew -- right then and there -- that that was what he wanted to do and whom he wanted to be. Zoltan, meanwhile, was -- as far as we can tell -- put on this planet specifically to dance.

Both of them have innate gifts as dancers. But gifts mean nothing if you don't go through the process of unwrapping them.

It's the *work* that matters. We all have tremendous potential in us; but until that potential energy becomes kinetic energy, it just sits there, dormant.

The classic example of this, of course, is Michael Flatley. Told he was too old to start Irish dance at age eleven, he faced a critical juncture in his life: listen to the quiet tyranny of conventional wisdom, or follow his dream. He chose the latter, and half a dozen years later was the first American world champion of Irish dance. Far more outrageous, though, was him sticking with his dream for decades; consider that when he left Los Angeles for Dublin to build the seven minutes that shook the world at Eurovision, he was -- as far as anyone was concerned -- an impoverished and uneducated blue-collar day laborer with a quirky hobby.

How about Matt? Even with the rise in popularity of Irish dancing at the time he was a youth, he was still a British kid in south London. What were the odds of him even making it into Lord of the Dance, let alone *becoming* a Lord of the Dance?

And while we're on the subject of odds, let's talk about Zoltan. A Hungarian who didn't come to Irish dance until his early twenties, he's now the senior dance captain and one of the most electrifying Irish dancers in the world, capable of performing movements that dancers half his age not only wouldn't attempt, but don't even know how to try.

Something drives them. Something tells them to keep pushing when the little voice in the back of the head says to stop.

Team Lord is filled with such overachievers. To get into this show, you have to be; realistically, no other dance form is as commercially lucrative on a global scale as Irish dancing, now that the non-competition elements of it are inextricably fused with Michael's art form, and the number of practitioners has exploded. To do well in the competition scene is challenging enough; to then subsequently develop yourself as a *show* dancer, capable of ripping through two hours of high-octane dancing that spellbinds an entire arena, is a whole new mountain to climb.

The photograph attached to this journal entry was taken yesterday in Nuremberg. The lone dancer onstage is Connor "Pops" Smyth. No one told him to go out there and put in extra pre-show rehearsal time; he went out there because he's driven.

Every night, during the brief window of open-stage time before the house opens, several members of the troupe are often there. Drilling. Practicing. Improving. Because "good enough" is an illusion, and for the men and women of this troupe, the mountain must be climbed.

Then we get to the extra psychological challenges of touring life. Months away from home. Constant travel. Uneven eating and sleeping. Spending literally all day, every day, with the same group of people. And that's par for the course; that doesn't include massive curveballs like a global pandemic, border closures, government-ordered quarantines, and everything else that Team Lord has overcome in just the last 45 days.

Today, Team Lord goes from the bus straight into the venue: load in, drop gear, go through lineups, attack the workouts, and put on an explosive performance that ends with thousands of people on their feet, screaming, applauding, sometimes crying with joy.

Tomorrow, we do it all again.

It is the most astonishing job in the world.

And for those who are driven -- who put in the time and the sacrifice to achieve it -- it is, hand on heart, the most amazing adventure you can imagine.

Life gave you a dream for a reason. Pursue it.


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