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Follow Your Dream, Day #430: Spirit in the Dark

Who's ready for another never-before-seen bootleg -- this time, featuring Helen Egan Maguire and Daire Nolan?

If you look at the narrative structure of #LordOfTheDance, the entire first act is expository and rising action: you're introduced, in order, to the Little Spirit, the good guy, the goddess, the good girl, the bad guy, and the bad girl. There's one small moment of conflict between the good and bad girls, and a moment of character development between the good guy and the good girl, but the first act serves to set up all the pieces on the chess board.

The second act is when those pieces truly get put into play.

Watch as the narrative structure moves from introduction and rising action to complication and climax. For those of you familiar with the rule of Chekhov's Gun -- a dramatic principle that states that every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed -- Lord of the Dance follows this rule almost perfectly.

The tension starts off immediately in the second act with Spirit in the New World and Dangerous Game. At this point, the audience knows that Planet Ireland is the Little Spirit's dream, and everything in it is her creation. We see her exploring this creation, and as she plays her magic flute once more, things suddenly go very wrong: Don Dorcha and the Warriors show up to torment her and break her flute.

The Little Spirit's dream has just become a nightmare -- and she's trapped inside it. Her creations are rising up against her. Planet Ireland is out of control, and has taken on a life of its own.

Think back to the very first time you ever saw Lord of the Dance. This is important. The *first* time you saw the show. Do you remember how you felt at intermission? Do you remember wondering what was going to happen next? The entire first act is setup, and the second act could go any number of ways. Who could have imagined it would plunge so quickly -- and so intensely -- into heavy conflict?

Drama is perhaps best described as the process of chasing your heroes up a tree and throwing rocks at them. And this sequence, in which the Little Spirit is tormented by the Dark Lord and barely rescued by the Lord of the Dance -- which, notably, only ends in stalemate and *not* a victory for the good guys -- raises the dramatic tension way beyond anything you'd expected. You're emotionally invested in these characters, and suddenly they're in real conflict with each other.

It also has to be said: how amazing are these performances? This is a grainy, low-res VHS transfer of a fan bootleg, and yet it's still emotionally evocative. That's down to the amazing performances on that stage. Helen Egan sells the daylights out of her performance; when she collapses to her knees at about the three-minute mark, trying desperately to fix her broken flute, she looks like a delicate bird with broken wings trying to fly away from a predator that's toying with her before the kill.

The predator? Daire Nolan.

Daire is a big, tall, physically imposing guy. The sheer contrast in height and bulk between him and Helen lends the drama quite a bit of power. Even today, watching this nearly a quarter of a century later, you can't help but feel your blood pressure rise as the bad guys fall upon the Little Spirit like a pack of wolves.

Lord of the Dance is an emotional rollercoaster, and the greater the conflict, the greater the sense of triumph and victory at the end. For all the talk of how the show has a very "simple" story, it's an incredibly powerful, emotionally evocative journey that stands the test of time.

Planet Ireland arises: 2021.


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