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Lord of the Dance (Tour - Oxford)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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If you've never seen Michael Flatley's dramatic choreography performed live, make sure you get yourself a ticket for Lord of the Dance, showing at the New Theatre from 27th October to 1st November. And even if you know Riverdance so well you can tap out the moves at home, it's still worth coming along. You can guarantee that this production will serve up all the smooth moves and glitter you expect and hope for, but also that it will surprise you with something fresh. The keynote of the production is a dramatic collision of tradition and modernity: old Celtic symbols appear in flashing lights and on lycra costumes. Old Irish folksongs are followed with brutal dance sequences under UV lights.

The plot is predictable, centering on a basic clash between good and evil; these binaries are represented visually through rather crude symbols and costumes, black for bad, white for good. Yet the plot is only a vehicle for a series of high-quality performances, which surprise where the overarching story does not. Each sequence brings something new, whether a violin duet or female solo singer. The strength of this show is its variety: solo dances are alternated with whole-cast numbers. It reaches its most impressive in the ensemble sequences, where striking formations emerge seemingly effortlessly and the cast executes perfect Mexican waves. Particularly awesome are the men’s tap routines, without musical accompaniment, where the dancers create powerful, rapid rhythms with their feet. These heavy movements contrast with the female-only routines, where the dancers seem to float, so lightly do they tap the stage.

This show is essentially a crowd-pleaser. There is some gratuitous stripping, many fireworks, and constant colour and glitter. There are moments when the special effects verge on comical: the trapdoor was decidedly creaky and the smoke machine somewhat cliched. Nevertheless, this is an excellent family show, which had the audience (made up of people of all ages) clapping along and demanding an encore. The dancers built up a good rapport with the audience, which certainly left you wanting more of this short, fast-paced show.

- Alexandra Hedges


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