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Lord of the Dance still mesmerizes audiences
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 26
Where: Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Tickets: $38-$68; 520-7469, ticketswest.com
Multi-talented and world-renowned creator and director Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” is a universal phenomenon.
In this award-winning Irish dance and music show, a character called the Little Spirit travels through time to help the Lord of the Dance defeat the Dark Lord, Don Dorcha. The dance spectacular plays the Pikes Peak Center on Tuesday.
“The show has been a universal success where it’s gone because it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what culture,” says Irish-born Tom Cunningham, who plays Dorcha. “Everybody can understand it. Whether you’re from Killarney, Cork, or whether you don’t even have a drop of Irish blood in you, it doesn’t make any difference.”
It must be easy to follow: The show has brought audiences to their feet all over the world for the last 17 years. Two troupes perform somewhere nearly every night — sometimes a different city every night — since the first show on July 2, 1996, in Dublin, Ireland. Troupe 1 is touring Europe, while Troupe 2 is making its way through the United States. According to the website, over 50 million people in 60 different countries have seen this show.
So what’s the magic behind this stunning record?
“We’ve been asking that question of ourselves for a long time,” Cunningham says with a laugh and a bewildered tone. “It’s hard to put your finger on it.”
A dancer who’s been with the show for 16 of the 17 years may have trouble seeing the reason, but from the outside, it’s a little easier to see.
Part of it is undeniably the revival of a lost art form. Irish dance is something that many young Irish children take up as a hobby, but other than false renditions put on for the wads of tourists in Dublin, the authentic dance doesn’t make it far. Flatley set out to change that.
“He’s really the person that dragged Irish dancing from just being like a hobby for a lot of young Irish kids to being this international kind of phenomenon,” Cunningham says. “The music … and the dance moves are all fundamentally Irish. The show really kind of dragged … an ancient art form into the 21st century.”
Born in Carrickmacross, a town in County Monaghan, Ireland, Cunningham began dancing at age four. He worked his way to the top, winning Irish dance competitions all over the world, and at 18, he joined the show.
Although the show was highest grossing international tour of the year just months afterits debut, Flatley and his cast and crew have made some significant changes. February 14 marked the start of a “Lord of the Dance” relaunch. They revamped the set, added LED screens, incorporated what Cunningham calls “space age” costumes, and generally tweaked smaller parts of the show here and there.
“Michael is never happy to get a rest, he always kind of wants to push the boat a little further and make improvements anywhere they can possibly be made,” Cunningham says. “He was very keen to make sure ‘Lord of the Dance’ never fell behind.”
Flatley inspires dedication, he says.
“He looks after people,” Cunningham says. “If you give him your heart and soul, he’ll give it right back.”