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Follow Your Dream, Day #427: Recollecting Feet of Flames

The most iconic #IrishDance solo in the world is Michael Flatley's Feet of Flames.

Now consider: what must it *be* like to be completely by yourself onstage -- no music, no other dancers -- in a stadium filled with over 100,000 people?

Today we consider this part of the Flatley formula for a commercial Irish dance show: the lone lead dancer onstage, flawlessly performing incredibly intricate steps with an almost unimaginable level of mental focus. But let's take a closer look at what this entails.

The first key ingredient is the rhythm patterns themselves. A solo needs to have an ebb and flow to it; if you make every section too complex, with taps shoehorned into every possible space, then it runs the risk of turning into white noise. The same risk is true if the solo itself, or any section therein, goes on too long. It has to build to a logical and well-timed conclusion, wherein you keep upping the ante to build the momentum to the climax. Meanwhile, if you opt for bigger and flashier moves, are you running the risk of tiring yourself out faster? There is an art form to creating a truly memorable solo.

This is where the sheer physical and emotional conditioning of a professional Irish dancer becomes key. Feet of Flames, as a solo, doesn't happen in a vaccuum; it's the penultimate number of the show when it's used. A competition dancer trains for two minutes of stage time; a show dancer trains for two *hours* of stage time. And by the time you've gotten to this solo, you've already warmed up to full speed for two hours, danced onstage for another two hours, been in multiple numbers, at least two fights, and you've been blown up once. You've had a long day -- but as far as the audience is concerned, things are just starting to heat up.

Hence why self-confidence and self-belief are critical. These personality traits are often confused by the general public as ego; the reality is that if you're onstage by yourself in a stadium dancing to 100,000 people, after two hours of taking the audience through a high-octane dance drama, and now you've got to get them on their feet after everything they've just seen, you don't come out and shrug your shoulders. You come out, fire off your coat, and blow that stage *up.*

In Star Wars, there's a famous exchange between Luke and Yoda:

LUKE: "I don't believe it."

YODA: "That is why you fail."

The difference with Michael Flatley, and every Irish dancer chosen to be a part of Team Lord, is that they *do* believe it. And *that's* what makes #LordOfTheDance so exciting: you're seeing a group of human beings doing the impossible -- and making it look effortless.

Belief can be frighteningly powerful. It is ultimately what separates the wheat from the chaff. So much of the Irish dance world right now is having its resiliency tested; why train if there is no feis on the horizon, no show on tour?

You do it because it's inside you to do it. You do it because you will *not* be broken. You do it because you will *win.*

That's not ego. That's how champions are made. That's how stadiums are sold out. That's how you follow your dream.

Michael Flatley became the first American world champion of Irish dancing in 1975. It would be almost another twenty *years* of blue-collar poverty and literally digging ditches before he became an "overnight" success. That's raw, hard determination.

Get up. Get out of bed. Get your shoes on. Go. Believe in yourself and *go.*

Planet Ireland arises: 2021.


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