by John Wenzel on November 19, 2009
It seems that nearly everywhere you look these days, Michael Flatley’s disturbingly nimble Irish step moves are flooding an area stage. Best know for his massive hit “Riverdance” (which, incidentally, premieres at the Buell Theatre on Tuesday), Flatley’s also responsible for such aptly-named productions as “Lord of the Dance” and “Feet of Flames.”
The former has been touring the world for nearly 14 years to over 100 million people in 65 countries, and it’s stopping by the Budweiser Events Center on Friday, Nov. 20, for a performance.
As you can probably imagine, these shows don’t accept just anyone. Hardcore, lifelong dancers clamor for these physically exhausting, technically challenging roles, which combine Irish dance, tap and other forms.
We spoke with “Lord of the Dance’s” lead dancer Jason Gorman via e-mail in advance of the show about the rigors of the role, how someone gets a gig like this in the first place (hint: audition, audition, audition) and why he thinks audiences keep coming back for more.
So how did you get the lead role in “Lord of the Dance”?
I had to audition in front of one of the shows choreographers Maire Duffy Pask. I auditioned four times before they actually put me up to do it.
How physically demanding is it, and how do you prepare for it each day?
Playing the lead role is extremely demanding, physically and emotionally. You carry the entire show on your shoulders and it is your job to make that connection with the audience. I like to do a lot of activities that prevent injury to prepare for the show, such as yoga and Pilates.
You’ve been performing with one or the other of Flatley’s the shows for the last seven years. What perspective do you have on it now that you didn’t when you started?
I feel like the most important thing I’ve learned after having performed in front of some of the biggest and smallest crowds in the world is that you cannot underestimate the audience. You cannot expect them to just love you or the show. You have to earn their trust and respect by making an emotional connection with them, whether there be only 4,000 people or 60,000. I’ve danced in front of both those kinds of crowds.
What do you think has sustained the popularity of these shows over the years?
I think the athletic aspect of Irish Dance has really kept people interested in the show. It is quite an amazing style of dance that requires extreme amounts of energy and strength. I feel like people are never let down by the beauty and power of the art form.
What do you think people walk away with after seeing the show, particularly people who haven’t seen it before?
I think people really enjoy the fact that they can go see a dance show which has no talking or dialogue and walk away understanding it. Not only understanding it, but becoming emotionally involved with the characters. It’s very exciting to be able to tell an entire story completely through movement.
What’s the appeal for people who have seen it before?
I feel like people who have seen the show before really enjoy the interactions of the cast and that is what keeps them coming back. The cast is a family and a team.
Do you bring talents from any of your other disciplines or training to this role?
Yes, I am formally trained in many styles of dance including ballet, jazz and contemporary. All of my training influences my portrayal and performance on stage.
How long do you see yourself doing this particular show, or Flatley shows in general?
As long as they will have me!
Tickets for the Friday, Nov. 20 show are available at the Budweiser Events Center box office or by calling 877-544-TIXX or visiting comcasttix.com. Discounts are available for subscribers and groups of 20 or more by calling 970-619-4122.