Soon you'll get to see the current Team Lord troupe onstage in #FeetOfFlames. But for today, the five-hundredth day of this production journal, we're giving you something special: a never-before-seen teaser glimpse of #LordOfTheDance at Dublin's RDS Arena in June, 1998.
The story of the original show's creation is the stuff of legend: the ultimate showbiz longshot against the odds, paid for in full by its creator, Michael Flatley -- who also happened to be its choreographer, director, and star -- with only ten weeks' worth of funds to bring it to life, and a goal that seemed impossible: to *beat* Michael's first show after being unceremoniously removed from it, in order to irrefutably prove that he was the true creative force behind the nascent commercial #IrishDance genre.
It worked. Lord of the Dance has gone on to gross over one-billion dollars, and today -- almost 25 years later -- is still going strong, gearing up for yet *another* stadium tour this December.
In 1996 it was the ultimate underdog victory. And something about it -- the mix of white-hot rage, the back-up-against-the-wall desperation, the raw truth on display, the primal catharsis of triumphantly rising like a phoenix from the ashes -- really captured and inspired people, because it was a full-throttle Hail Mary that grabbed you by the lapels and shouted primary colors directly into your eyeballs.
In short: Lord of the Dance -- especially in its first year when it had yet to break even, had to fight uphill in the face of negative press because Michael was still an "effin' Yank", and had to deal with promoters for rival shows insisting on barring clauses to try to slow it down as it toured through various territories -- wasn't a polite evening of theatre; it was a title fight. Each sold-out arena and each standing ovation served as the scorecard.
Hence why Lord of the Dance will *always* have a chip on its shoulder, why it always plays bigger and louder than anyone else, and why its unofficial tag line is, "We didn't come here to finish second." Because it's not a specious squeaky-clean ivory-tower façade; it's a raw, sleeves-rolled-up sledgehammer of a rock concert.
Which brings us back to the OG Troupe itself and those who subsequently followed. It's important to point out that these kids were the first professional Irish dance troupe *handpicked by Michael himself.* Their names are literally a Dream Team roster of the best Irish dancers in the world in 1996, because they were the ones who had the trifecta: the technical ability honed from competition dancing, the talent to perform as show dancers in Michael's art form atop Irish dancing, *and* the toughness -- physical, emotional, and mental -- to survive the rigors of touring, especially in a show as brutally difficult to get through as Lord of the Dance, which features *one-hundred percent* #IrishDancing.
The inspirational effect they had on an entire planet cannot be overstated. Here was a group of kids from rural Ireland and rural UK -- many of them having left jobs, college, and careers to take a chance on the show, some of them having never left home before -- who were outselling U2 and The Rolling Stones. Showbiz is frequently a jaded and cynical industry, and yet there was no denying the jaw-dropping *truth* of these kids going out there in front of tens of thousands of people every night and delivering an authentic experience so powerful that it literally infused joy into everyone who witnessed it. This legacy has continued up to the present day: Team Lord is the proverbial tip of the spear of the Irish dance world, where only the truly greatest qualify.
Lord of the Dance superfan Scott Asbjornsen sums it up well: "In the low times of my life, I come back to watch, and listen to the show. It reminds me that I crawled out of a deep hole, and found strength that will keep from ever getting that far down again. It is a comfort, and reminds me that there is joy in life, and you see and feel it when you watch it. So, in way that is hard to explain, you feel a gratitude that never dies for those in the show. You want to somehow let them know that they had a part in me getting up off of the ground and learning to live again. You want them to know that you have their back, and if they need a kind word, a prayer, whatever, you are there. After all of these years, that has never changed."
Fellow superfan Coni Kornell also recently commented: "The one unique ingredient that LOTD brings us is HOPE! From the first moment Michael stepped up after being destroyed by the people with the money, we saw his bloodied knuckles from the climb back from the abyss, we felt his pain, we experienced his determination and we were physically pulled along with him into his dream and allowed to hope that we, too, might succeed with our dreams. To me, this is what LOTD means."
And so, for today's journal entry, we're going to try a community experiment -- something straight out of the old-school LOTD Visitors' Book, for those who remember the VB. If you feel like leaving a note of gratitude for those in the show, past or present, please do so in the comments below. Over the last year and a half, you've seen the energies gathering once again; Team Lord alumni across the decades of the show's history now frequently comment and interact directly with fans here. The OG Troupe itself reunited for a charity lockdown performance earlier this year. And on the horizon, increasingly loud rumblings of *something* coming to celebrate the show's 25th anniversary.
Let's see who's out there. Leave a comment below and let's show some love for these Irish dance heroes who changed the world.
Planet Ireland arises: 2021.