Last Tuesday evening I had the opportunity to take delivery on my birthday present from the Cap’n—tickets to “Lord of the Dance” in Jerusalem
It was “gargious.” Twenty-five dancers, a pair of fiddlers, and a singer entertained a near-capacity house at Binyanei HaUma (nearly 3000 spectators). Celtic music, dance, and scenery (stone-looking arches through which the dancers entered and exited), lights, torches, and fireworks, wigs, costumes, and drama dazzled the audience for two hours.
I had seen “Riverdance” on television years ago, but the Cap’n knew nothing about the show or style of dance, except what he saw on a Muppet Show special feature where Kermit the Frog—dressed in early Michael Flatley white peasant blouse—danced his little webbed feet off.
The real thing, live, was beyond anything I could have imagined. Yes, the experience was a bit of a barrage on the senses, but the sight and sound of so many people moving their feet in unison, the grace and speed of their movements, and the natural stirring-ness of Irish music (who can resist it?) was electrifying. Those who want the subtlety of ballet or the avant-garde of modern dance might not have been moved by it. But the Cap’n and I love dance, period, and this show was in a class of pleasure all its own.
If dance tells a story, this one tells of a love of dance. It opens in the early morning, with a gold-clad sprite awakening a group of women dancers. The program gets progressively more energetic, with the men dressed in bad-assed, military-looking clothing (drab or black trousers, T-shirts, nearly always with a Celtic knot insignia on them) and the women nearly always in brightly-colored dresses. Rivalries break out between the two principal female dancers, one in a Madonna-like white dress and luscious blond wig, the likes of which the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders would kill for, and a dark beauty in a fire-engine red dress. Another, the title rivalry (for the title of “Lord of the Dance”) also develops between the two principal male dancers (one with the bulky build of a Gene Kelley, the other with the much slighter build of Fred Astaire). Things get pretty hot in a “Breakout” dance which starts with the chaste, armless, feet-only Irish dancing of the Madonna and her troupe, but goaded by the raven-haired one, the troupe rips its Velcro-closed dresses off and completes the number with rapid foot-drumming, arms-akimbo, bra-and-panty-clad energy. (I couldn’t help but hear Peach commenting in my head, “Ima, that’s not very tzanua.” Then I looked around and counted the dozens of couples where the women’s heads were covered and the men’s heads sported crocheted kippot, and realized there are plenty of couples like the Crunches in our Fair and Holy City.) After intermission, the rivalry between the two principal men (and their respective posses) gets going, with the buff one and his henchmen deciding it’s time for his rival to “get whacked.” They pummel him to soften him up, then toss him in a backstage pit. But the gold-clad sprite returns and restores the wounded principal to floor-clacking health, and as he re-enters the stage, his feet move with such speed it sounds like water flowing. He recovers the coveted “Lord of the Dance” belt, peace breaks out, and the night comes to a close.
There were a few parts of the show I found annoying. The singer, whose raison d’etre was to keep the audience from getting restless during costume changes and breathers, was woeful. She could carry a tune, and had clearly had some training. But her singing lacked expression and though she was singing in English (for two of the three songs), I could hardly understand her. Another beef was that the sound was cranked up to the max (definitely up to “11”), which caused my ears to ring for several hours after the performance, and the liberal use of strobe lights felt like a serious assault on my vision. And finally, I was irritated with the audience more than once when they would applaud when a dancer was doing a particularly impressive piece of speedwork; though the floors are miked for these performances, I still couldn’t hear the dancer’s feet at all. Despite these drawbacks, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, from beginning to end. And as for the singer, at any given time, there are a few LOTD troupes on the road at a time, so perhaps some of the other singers are better.
We were lucky enough to find that some of the dances are watchable on YouTube. Here are the men in their amazing “Warriors” number,
and the women in their “Breakout” dance.
God love him, the Cap’n knows to keep his diamond earrings and dozen roses, and take me to the dance!