Think back to the first time you ever saw #LordOfTheDance.
A dark and mysterious opening. Ponderous music. Hooded figures with torches. And then, a lone spotlight reveals a small golden figure: the Little Spirit.
She pulls out a magic flute and plays a melody you've never heard before -- or have you? Had you heard it as a child, and forgotten it? It sounds like something from another time, another place, just at the edge of your memory...
The flute finishes, and the bell tolls: Planet Ireland, the Little Spirit's dream, is awakening.
This is an *incredibly* hard role to portray. Lord of the Dance takes place in a vaguely medieval Celtic fantasy world -- Planet Ireland -- and the audience has to buy the immersion into that fantasy in order to emotionally engage with the drama. The Little Spirit is the "everyman" archetype that takes the audience on the journey; through her, we experience the childlike sense of wonder, the danger, and the thrill of adventure. Through her, the audience is given permission to *feel* their way through the show, rather than having to think their way through.
It takes a truly gifted performer to not just portray this role, but *be* this role. Fortunately, Team Lord had a one-of-a-kind gifted performer in the OG Little Spirit, Helen Egan Maguire.
Imagine the challenge: this is an #IrishDance show in which you play the central character to the narrative, but you don't actually perform any Irish dancing -- and you have to be this mysterious, supernatural being whom the audience falls in love with every night. Oh, and you have to completely invent this performance from your own imagination with nothing but Michael Flatley's direction to guide you, because no one's ever tried this before.
The stakes are just as high today. After nearly a quarter of a century, the audience knows the story beats; it's arguably harder to achieve that same sense of fantasy immersion because you don't have the audience's wild anticipation of the unknown on your side. You have to craft an interpretation of the role that fits the show's narrative today, harkens back to what came before, *and* make it unique.
This is what our current Little Spirit, Jessica Aquila Judge, has done brilliantly. Jess has achieved something almost impossible: creating an interpretation of the Little Spirit that's a perfect successor to Helen's OG Little Spirit, but different enough to be a unique and memorable performance that stands on its own two feet. When you see Jess perform the role, it *feels* right.
A big reason there's so much excitement for the show's 25th anniversary in 2021 is because there's that sense of the unknown again; that sense that *something* wild is about to happen. It's that feeling of lightning in a bottle, a confluence of old magic and new magic. This is why we've spent literally the last year and a half introducing the current generation to you: because that magic is real, and there is a gathering of energies -- slowly, deliberately, inexorably -- happening behind the scenes.
Planet Ireland arises: 2021.