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Follow Your Dream, Day #478: Breakout -- From Rehearsal to Stage

The original #LordOfTheDance was an atomic bomb when it first came out, and one of its boldest statements is Breakout.

There's a lot happening in this number. For starters, it's the only dedicated female hardshoe number in the show. It's also the only direct conflict we see in the first act; by this point, we've been introduced to all five protagonists and the main factions, so now we see a clash between Saoirse and Morrighan, setting up the much larger conflict that emerges during Stolen Kiss in the second act. Saoirse shows that she has fire and *sass* in her as well as grace, while Morrighan can only look on in sullen rage.

There's also the meta-story surrounding Breakout as a statement piece. For anyone under the age of 25 who's grown up in a world where commercial #IrishDancing has always existed, Breakout has some impact -- but for the older generations, it's a *massive* impact. Remember, pre-Flatley #IrishDance was a sexless, joyless affair; one need only look at the Dance Halls Act of 1935, along with the well-known efforts of the clergy to stamp out anything even remotely suggestive, to see how tightly controlled the dancing had become. (For additional discussion on this topic, see Gay Byrne's Late Late Show 1998 tribute to Michael, as well as Lord Melvyn Bragg's South Bank Show episode dedicated to Michael. Both discuss this subject in detail.)

Thus, a major element of Lord of the Dance's initial success was its shock value. Unlike Michael's first show -- a somewhat austere theatre experience focused on technical exhibition, but an important first step nonetheless -- Lord of the Dance was (and is) dressed as a full-throttle rock concert, gleefully breaking every rule you could think of. Go back and watch the original 1996 video; that audience -- an Irish audience in Dublin -- is losing their minds watching every single number for the first time because they just hadn't seen *anything* like it before. Here was accelerated hardcore Irish dancing that was sexy, young, brash, in your face, and utterly delighted in setting the rule book on fire.

Here, for the first time ever, see the legendary OG Troupe -- the best Irish dancers in the world, fearless, handpicked by Michael -- rehearsing Breakout. Today, almost 25 years later, it's a statement that still echoes.

Planet Ireland arises: 2021.


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