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Friday, Jan. 28, 2000

Irish dance fever comes to Japan

Staff writer

Lord of the Dance, an Irish dance troupe which has been seen by 7 million people in 18 countries since its 1996 debut, is finally coming to Japan to wow audiences with its world-renowned performance.

The Irish dance troupe was founded by Irish-American dancer Michael Flatley, who is currently the artistic director and choreographer for the troupe. Flatley, arguably the best-known Irish-style dancer today, first became internationally known as the choreographer and principal dancer of Riverdance.

His first aim in starting the new troupe, he explained recently, was to "introduce a new type of entertainment," a combination of the traditional with the modern. The result is Lord of the Dance, a traditional Irish dance performance with elements of American show business woven into it.

But Lord of the Dance is more than just dance. Under the direction of Flatley and British director Arlene Phillips, the performance has become an amalgamation of live Irish music, incredible costumes and spectacular lighting -- all guided by a story line.

"A collaboration of tradition and the most advanced technology gives Lord of the Dance a feeling that no other show has," said Flatley.

Lord of the Dance performances sold out on the first day of ticket sales in Ireland, England, Australia and the United States. Other countries on their tour included France, Switzerland, Italy, Israel and South Africa.

What is behind this popularity? Flatley thinks that it's a combination of everything, including music, the speed of the dancing and the story line. "Mostly I'd say the energy that the dancers give out," he said.

The 38 dancers who will perform in Tokyo passed a tough audition process. According to Flatley, most of them have competed in Irish Dance competitions and have won recognition for their skills.

There is no doubt that the dancers' energy will be transmitted to audiences in Japan, who may even find an Irish spring in their steps on their way back to the train station.

Lord of the Dance will perform at Tokyo International Forum Hall A Jan. 26- Feb. 2, and at Osaka-jo Hall Feb. 5 and 6. Advance tickets for all Tokyo performances will be available three days before each performance from CN Play Guide, (03) 5802-9999. Tickets will also be sold at the door an hour and a half before each show. For Osaka tickets, call (06) 6233-8887.

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