Monday, April 19, 2010

dear michael flatley

I went to your show Lord of the Dance last night in Mississauga.

I'm wondering what the thought was behind taking a centuries-old tradition, such as Irish step dance, and turning it into a low grade strip show? It wasn't enough that the makeup on your female dancers resembles the later years of Tammy Fey, nor that their stylized Playboy bunny wigs must have weighed them down by ten pounds, nor that they used on-stage prop columns to swing from and grind on, but did they have to whip their Velcro-attached shirts off to reveal (albeit Celtic-designed) sports bras and matching cheerleader skirts? I was with my 11 year-old nephew and 75 year-old grandfather at the time, but couldn't cover both of their eyes simultaneously.

I'm also curious as to the audition process in selecting your male dancers. Obviously the male lead - the one painstakingly selected to replace you in the part that was so obviously written for you - was a tremendous dancer, but the rest? If the girls are attempting to reprise (in content and notoriety) the 1995 film "Showgirls", could the guys at least lose their beer guts? It's convenient that you made sure wardrobe had them fitted with plastic Celtic chest plates but the love handles managed to even leak out from under them.

I've noticed, too, that you've used flashy (ooh! strobe light!) effects, near-naked girls, and plastic Celtic chest plates to cover the fact that your dancers are feigning proper poise and skill. Indeed, I was so overwhelmed by your prerecorded, base-boosted soundtrack that I almost missed the dancers arms limply hanging by their sides instead of tautened. My own Irish dance teacher, Michael Patrick Ferrell, would have sworn at me in Gaelic if he caught me lazily dancing in the manner of your troupe.

And speaking of Gaelic, you could have ensured that your lead vocalist knew an Irish lilt before giving her three solos. Instead, she roamed the stage, each costume more alarming and each tiara larger than the time before, until she stood before us in a thigh-slit evening gown, fishnet stockings, and ruby red lips, waiting for the sash to complete her victory as crowned Miss America.

I would gladly blame the creator, producer, or director for these follies but, as the program pointed out, you are all three. In fact, in the page you took in outlining your extensive and acclaimed career, I found it interesting that the dancers were not mentioned by name at all. One would assume a talent agent or two would have requested recognition, considering their clients' performances included partial nudity. I also found it odd that your biography (autobiography?) did not mention Riverdance because, without it, you would not be the celebrity you are today.

And therein lies the rub. Riverdance made you, but you couldn't be happy. After a dispute with the team (there is no "I" in team...), you broke off and less than a week later had begun work on (Michael Flatley's) Lord of the Dance. In interviews you boasted that Riverdance could never replace you, as talented, brazen, and open-shirted as you are. But they did. Internationally, many times over. And you went off to create, produce, and direct that embarrassment I saw last night.

I commend you. Lord of the Dance effectively does away with the repressed, Irish tradition of unparalleled dance technique, disciplined live bands, and mythical Celtic storylines. In place of it, you provide a mediocre, nameless dance troupe acting out West Side Story meets Wicker Park, wearing bedazzled spandex neon aerobic outfits.

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