Review: Lord of the Dance – Dangerous Games
Flatley swansong is hit and miss
This article is from 2015.
The world owes a lot to Michael Flatley, for changing the face of Irish dance and helping re-invent it as a mainstream phenomenon. But that only buys you so much – the rest you have to keep on earning. Hence the reason Flatley’s post-Riverdance show, Lord of the Dance has continued to evolve since it was first presented in 1996.
But this latest incarnation, Dangerous Games feels like a pale imitation of that original show, and the later Feet of Flames version, for a variety of reasons. Firstly live music, the bedrock of any Irish music and dance show, is reduced to two violinists, the rest is recorded. Touring musicians is expensive, and many dance groups have to compromise on that front – but maybe some of the budget spent on the colourful but largely superfluous visuals could have been tucked in the pockets of a band.
More frustrating than that, however, is the under-use of the female dancers. In the past, dancers in Flatley’s shows have had premium opportunities to show what all that training and competition was for. Here, it almost feels more important for the women to look like Barbie dolls and flounce their hair, than to show what their feet can really do.
That said, there are sections in Dangerous Games which more than conjure up the old magic – and it is in these moments when the whole room comes alive, and not just on stage. As the dancers start to tap in unison, hard shoes banging against the stage, you can feel the energy throughout the auditorium start to build. When they move into that infamous line-up, the atmosphere builds still more until by the end of those fast-paced synchronised routines, the crowd is whooping and cheering with all its might.
And it’s those moments – when the women are dressed in trouser suits, or well-designed, but relatively traditional, short dresses (rather than whipping them off to reveal racy underwear) and the men are in shirts and trousers, rather than showing off their six-packs, that make the audience go wild. Flatley may feel he’s taken the temperature of the lowest common denominator, and pandered to it, but in truth the real heat is generated, on-stage and off, when the performers let their talent do the talking.
Flatley isn’t part of the UK tour, and will shortly be bowing out of the London show. His absence as a performer will be felt, but as a director and choreographer, we can only hope he injects a bit more class into his next offering.
Reviewed performance at Edinburgh Playhouse.