The last sixty days have been a journey unlike any other in the history of the Lord of the Dance.
Sixty days ago, we were in China, beginning our run of shows in Shanghai. It was business as usual.
As we finished our Shanghai run, news was emerging about some new virus from much further inland. It was spreading rapidly, but far away from us, as we joined the largest annual migration of humans on the planet, traveling from Shanghai to Beijing during the Lunar New Year. As we loaded into Beijing, the larger concern was that a few members of the troupe had caught a completely unrelated bacterial infection, requiring a trip to a fever screening clinic in Beijing to be treated and cleared.
Then the first real surprise hit: the Chinese government suspended mass gatherings, as multiple cities went into full lockdown. Our run of sold-out shows in Beijing was gone.
Lord of the Dance loves performing in China. It's an amazing country. Ideally, we'll be able to return soon.
An early departure to Taiwan was the next hurdle. Rescheduling travel is hard enough when you're an individual traveler or you're on holiday with your family; this is a full-blown arena tour, with meticulous logistics for cast, crew, and equipment. Our tour manager, Pete Mersey, barely sleeps as it is; how he managed to rework everything so quickly and smoothly is an unbelievable feat -- and a portent of things to come.
A few of us were still under the weather from the aforementioned bacterial infection and got stopped at the Taiwanese airport border check. Thankfully, they let us through, and everyone fully recovered shortly thereafter. The crew followed the cast shortly thereafter to Taiwan, having stayed behind to finish the loadout in an incredibly quiet Beijing.
Arriving in Taiwan early gave Team Lord a little bit of time to enjoy the tourism attractions in Kaohsiung, along the southwest coast of the island. In particular, there was a beautiful riverside lantern festival very close to our hotel, and it must be said that Taiwan was -- and always has been -- a magical place for Team Lord. We recently brought Feet of Flames there, and the reception for every iteration of Lord of the Dance has been wildly enthusiastic each time we've performed.
The next challenge came as we finished our Taiwan run. By this time, the Coronavirus which we thought we'd escaped had spread out far enough beyond China that the United States closed its borders to any travelers who had been in China in the last fourteen days. We were just under that cutoff, as we discovered when we sent James Keegan ahead of the troupe to Mexico to begin press there, and discovered very quickly that there was no option to connect through the USA.
This posed the most massive logistical problem in the history of Lord of the Dance: how to ship, on less than twenty-four hours' notice, the entire show -- cast, crew, and equipment -- from Taiwan to Mexico, *without* connecting through the States as originally planned, and without any single airline route that could accommodate the entire operation.
The obvious answer was the one no one wanted to do: travel *west* from Taiwan and go around the world again to Mexico. At that point, even orbiting astronauts on the International Space Station would be arching an eyebrow.
The solution was as audacious as it was brilliant: we packed costumes and equipment into cardboard boxes and assigned them to troupe members as additional luggage. We then split the troupe into two groups: one would go from Taiwan to Mexico by way of Toronto, and the other would go from Taiwan to Mexico by way of Hong Kong and Vancouver. Adding even more fun, the latter group would then be further split into two groups, flying out of Vancouver at different times.
In American football terms, this is what's known as a Hail Mary.
*Somehow,* against an insane mountain chain of odds, all of the cast, crew, and equipment had made it from China to Taiwan to Canada to Mexico. We arrived on schedule, and by the time the leads went out for the press tour on Mexican TV, no one had any idea that behind the scenes, logistically, Team Lord had just had its finest hour.
We've written this before and we're writing it again: credit really does have to go to our tour manager, Pete Mersey. The number of rabbits he pulls out of hats to make a tour run smoothly is beyond anything you can imagine. Now he had to pull an alligator out of a hat. Anyone can send "please advise" emails back to the office; you need someone on the ground who can get things *done.*
After winter in China, emerging from the airport terminal in Mexico City and feeling the blanket of warm sunlit air was quite a change. Gone were the thick coats; out came the shorts and sunscreen.
Mexico was amazing. In particular, performing once more at the 12,000-seat National Auditorium in Mexico City was a truly brilliant experience. The troupe, having already been through an unbelievable series of events, had to quickly drill as much as possible to perform at altitude -- and they pulled it off flawlessly. The Mexican fanbase for Lord of the Dance is incredibly large and very passionate about the show, and having local hero Luis Sanchez performing along with us for this leg of the tour was a fantastic experience.
After Mexico, we returned home for a couple of days, then turned right around and headed back out for Austria and Germany.
Last year we did a televised performance in Austria for Lord of the Dance, and our Austrian shows were sold out. We even got to briefly hang out with OG troupe member Denise Flynn, and as we subsequently headed into Germany, we felt like it was back to business as usual. Lord of the Dance loves touring Germany, and the tour itinerary was very straightforward and clockwork.
At first, everything went exactly as scheduled. We had our mobile broadcast pack with us once more, so we were streaming the tour live to Dancelord TV (twitch.tv/lordofthedance). Each night's performance was outstanding, the wildly enthusiastic audiences driving us on.
You know what happens next. Global events surrounding the Coronavirus, which started in December of last year in China, and which had already impacted us in China and Taiwan, caught up once again, culminating in yesterday's announcement.
How does that old aphorism go? "May you live in interesting times."
This too shall pass, of course. But today, as this is being written, Team Lord is heading home.
In the last sixty days, Lord of the Dance has toured three different continents and traveled a greater amount of mileage than the equatorial circumference of the Earth. It is a truly wild story of the biggest-selling dance show in the world facing unbelievable challenges and still getting the audience on their feet every single night.
The men and women of Team Lord are some of the toughest -- physically, mentally, psychologically, and emotionally -- in show business. This troupe has been through a lot together, with events unfolding at such incredible speed that the full scope of it only becomes clear in retrospect.
There will be more Lord of the Dance. Exciting times are ahead.
But that's tomorrow.
Today, let's celebrate these people who overcame the odds to bring us joy.
As Michael Flatley states at the beginning of the show, "No matter what you go for in life, it's gonna be tough. You're going to come up against brick walls but you've got to find a way past it. Go over it, go under it, go around it, go through it -- but find a way to the other side. If you have a dream, and you're willing to work for that dream, you can have anything in the world. Nothing is impossible."