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Follow Your Dream, Day #515: Fiery Nights -- the Supercut

How about another #LordOfTheDance supercut -- this time, let's dance with the devil in Fiery Nights!

This supercut features three amazing performers across four different videos:

* Gillian Norris from 1996 and 1998
* Aisling Mc Cabe from 2009
* Ciara Sexton from 2011

Fiery Nights is interesting for a few reasons. It's the only time in the classic show that Don Dorcha and Morrighan interact (albeit briefly). Also, the number's structure is somewhat inverted: it starts with a solo performance, builds up to a group number, and then the leads actually depart to let the group finish on their own. This inverted structure fits with the theme of darkness arising; remember, at this point in the show, Don Dorcha and the Warriors have fought the Lord of the Dance and the Warlords to a stalemate. Fiery Nights and Siamsa are almost two sides of the same coin: ceremonies of light and dark. You get the overwhelming sense that the darkness is spreading through the land, gaining strength -- and as the Lament traditionally follows Fiery Nights, the feeling that night is indeed falling on Planet Ireland.

The real question here is Morrighan. At the beginning of Fiery Nights, she attempts to seduce the Lord of the Dance, who is momentarily enticed before rejecting her. And, critically, notice how the Little Spirit flees from Morrighan, *despite* the presence of the Lord.

There's a lot to unpack here. If we assume that Morrighan is loosely based on Mórrígan the Phantom Queen from Celtic mythology, then Morrighan is the guardian of the land and its people, whose appearances are tied to prophecies of war and fate. In short, her role is to serve as gatekeeper, so that only a true hero may ascend to rule Planet Ireland.

The clue for this is in the character's full name in the show: Morrighan the Temptress. We assume that temptation is solely of a physical nature, but what if it isn't? What if that's just a means to an end? In such context, the rejections she faces from Saoirse in Breakout and the Lord in Fiery Nights are merely tests (with a subsequent test for the Lord in Stolen Kiss) -- and her test of Don Dorcha, which he succumbs to, ultimately seals his fate: cursed to forever hunger for what he cannot have.

Ask yourself this: why is it in each new iteration of #LordOfTheDance that Don Dorcha shows up looking increasingly soulless and more mechanical, as if surrendering pieces of his humanity in a futile quest for greater power with each reincarnation? In Dangerous Games, the Dark Lord actually confronts the Little Spirit as a disembodied ghost *before* she creates Planet Ireland -- which begs the question: *how* is he able to reincarnate? We've seen the Little Spirit demonstrate this ability on the Lord, but she certainly wouldn't do it for the Dark Lord.

Which means it had to be Morrighan.

And thus, when Don Dorcha and Morrighan head offstage together, the final piece clicks into place. While the Lord passes the Little Spirit's test by rejecting power in favor of compassion when he repairs the Spirit's flute, the Dark Lord *fails* Morrighan's test by conspiring with her for greater power, and she fulfills her role as the guardian of the land by cursing him to always have more power -- and still end up a failure. (This is why, if you notice, Morrighan isn't present at the Lord's execution.)

Which begs the question: is Morrighan actually evil?

Depending on how you want to look at her actions, the answer is a lot more gray than black or white. Which is also why Morrighan seems to lend herself to the broadest reinterpretation; in Celtic myth, the Phantom Queen is a shapeshifter, and if you look at the various performances of Morrighan over the decades, you get wildly different interpretations of the role from each dancer who portrays her. Gillian Norris' Morrighan, for instance, is extremely different from Ciara Sexton's Morrighan. Aisling McCabe's Morrighan is very different from Aimee Black's Morrighan. Kelly Hendry and Leigh Ann McKenna also had very different interpretations of the role. Likewise, Andrea Papp-Kren's Morrighan is another completely different interpretation. You may have personal preferences, but all are valid.

There's *a lot* happening sub rosa in this show, playing on archetype and "hero's journey" Monomyth plot structure. It's why such a "simple" story seems to resonate so powerfully with people all over the world. On one level, you can enjoy it as a simple #IrishDance show set in a fantasyland of good versus evil. But if you choose to dig deeper, there are many (many) layers to this story, some of which are deliberately working on you subconsciously.

Feet of Flames Taiwan: December 2020.

Planet Ireland arises: 2021.


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