Riverdance legend Michael Flatley’s Irish dance extravaganza, Lord of The Dance, hit New Theatre in Oxford last night to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Since June 27, 1996, when the show premiered in Dublin, it has visited 1000 venues worldwide and has been seen by over 60 million people, elevating Irish dance to a global audience.

As Eurovision star Flatley admits in the opening film sequence of the new performance which shares a message from the Irish American himself, many of the dancers taking part in the show this year were not even born on that opening night.

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Oxford Mail:

The story centres on a young man, the Lord of the Dance, and his fight against dark forces to save Planet Ireland drawing on wider themes of Ireland’s history, folklore, and biblical references.

It features the tune from Sydney Carter's famous 1963 hymn Lord of the Dance, the melody originating much earlier in America.

The mind-bending choreography in the anniversary performance is executed by 40 young performers directed by Mr Flatley, with new music by composer Gerard Fahy, which hopes to revive the show for another generation of fans.

Michael Flatley comments: “I’m so excited to bring the original Lord of the Dance back to UK Theatres in 2022. I feel like this is the most vital tour in our 25 year history!

“The return of the arts is so incredibly important. I hope the tour will help renew spirits and put a smile back on everyone's faces...”

Oxford Mail:

The show began as Flatley’s dream to create ‘the greatest Irish dance show in the world’ after his team’s river dance performance in the 1994 Dublin Eurovision competition’s interval was seen by millions.

Ireland won the competition for the third time in a row.

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New staging, costumes and choreography plus cutting-edge technology special effects lighting elevated Lord of the dance for its 25th anniversary show.

Oxford Mail:

Incorporating a giant screen, the opening sees an exploration of how far Lord of the Dance has come in 25 years, with the grand finale seeing past and present performances combine as the shows first performance plays behind the dancers.

Not one but three Flatley’s also take the stage, virtually, dancing together on the screen and giving the illusion the dance legend is present.  

The show’s opening night at New Theatre on June 7 saw not one, but two standing ovations from the audience, many of whom have been fans of the show since the beginning.

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Oxford Mail:

The greatest cheer of the night though, it has to be said, was before the interlude when the men rip off their shirts at the end of a particularly intense dance/fight scene.

One theatre goer, who is in her 60s and based in Kidlington, said after the show: “It was just absolutely fantastic, I don’t have words to describe how I’m feeling right now.

“I’m not going to be able to sleep after that!”

Oxford Mail: Dancers gather at Oxford's Bridge of Sighs for a photo. Ed NixDancers gather at Oxford's Bridge of Sighs for a photo. Ed Nix

Another theatre goer, who is a student based in Oxford, said: “That was not what I expected at all. It was incredible.

“I thought the way they had the screen in the background was really cool and added to the atmosphere, and I just don’t get how they can move their legs so quickly. I genuinely feel exhausted watching.

“Also, I love the costumes. So glittery!”

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The tour is being coordinated by Harvey Goldsmith CBE, an English performing arts promoted best known for his rock concerts.

Oxford Mail: Dancers gather at Oxford's The Bridge of Sighs for a photo. Ed Nix. Dancers gather at Oxford's The Bridge of Sighs for a photo. Ed Nix.

He said: “I am delighted to be working with Michael again. I helped to create the original show and have watched its success worldwide.

“Using the best modern technology and revising the original stage production gives us the opportunity to represent this classic show at its very best.”

The show will on at Oxford’s New Theatre until June 11, with showings on June 9, 10 and 11, at 8pm.

An extra matinee performance will be at 2.30pm on the show’s closing night.

After this, the dancers get one day off before heading to Sheffield to continue their UK tour.

The last UK performance will be in Manchester on July 17, before the dancers head off to Belgium.

Read more from this author

This story was written by Shosha Adie

She joined the team in 2022 as a digital reporter.   

To get in touch with her email: Shosha.Adie@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter: @ShoshaAdie

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