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Lord of the Dance(2011)
Tells a timeless story based on Irish folklore of good versus evil, & through the media of dance & music it is understood and appreciated by every culture.
For more about Lord of the Dance and the Lord of the Dance Blu-ray release, see Lord of the Dance Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 10, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Flatley
Director: Marcus Viner
» See full cast & crew
Lord of the Dance Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 10, 2011
Okay, let's just get this out of the way right off the bat: my wife and I have made merciless fun of the Riverdance and Lord of the Dance franchises for years, lambasting them as "dancing with no arm movements." PBS pledge breaks have consistently lost two regular viewers whenever Michael Flatley and company have burst on screen, tapping those toes faster than seems humanly possible. And yet I'm not immune to the charms of Irish dancing, and in fact have firsthand knowledge of how popular it can be. Years ago a large chorus I direct had a Celtic themed concert, and as a special guest we brought in an award winning young lass who had recently won a national Irish dancing contest. We had never before experienced an audience of the magnitude we saw that day. The church where we performed was full to capacity, and people were actually standing out in the narthex and, yes, even the parking lot trying to gain a gander at the choir and the dancer. Obviously, there's something extremely attractive about this art form which has captivated audiences worldwide and which has made Michael Flatley an international phenomenon. Flatley, a south side Chicago kid of Irish ancestry has taken his ethnic heritage very seriously, becoming a living exemplar of an ancient art and winning countless fans and untold millions in the process. When he left Riverdance under that oft-quoted cloud of "artistic differences," he created his own incredible extravaganza, Lord of the Dance, which quickly eclipsed Riverdance in both ambition and impact. This new Blu-ray, subtitled Michael Flatley Returns, is in fact Flatley's recreation of Lord of the Dance back in Dublin, where it all began in 1996. Flatley had in the meantime moved onto other projects as well as survived at least a couple of major health scares.
That Lord of the Dance has become an international sensation of incredible proportions should be inarguable after this feature's opening montage, which lists a rapidly escalating series of worldwide cities on top of which a banner emblazoned "Sold Out" is stamped. We then get about ten minutes or so of Flatley ruminating about the "naysayers" who insisted doing a show like this was "impossible" (more of this interview is included as a supplement). Flatley makes no bones about the fact that his goal was to compete with arena rock concerts, and while an Irish dancing themed show might seem like an odd choice to enter in that competition, the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and Flatley and his expert troupe have been wowing gigantic audiences ever since. Dublin's O2 Arena is the setting for this particular filming, and acres upon acres of teeming crowds roar their approval of Flatley's showmanship throughout the evening.
Lord of the Dance is actually relatively—relatively—restrained in terms of stagecraft, letting glitzy costumes, a battery of lights and lighting effects and the occasional pyrotechnic display augment what is basically an impeccably choreographed dance performance. Anyone who has seen the almost military precision with which Flatley and his dancers perform, even those who (like my wife and I) are prone to helpless giggling at these displays, has to admit that these dancers are unbelievably rigorously trained and that they execute these steps with incredible flair and meticulousness. Flatley holds several world's records for the number of taps per second—yes, per second—he's able to execute, and while those displays are featured in abundance throughout Lord of the Dance, it's actually the ensemble dancing that is more impressive. Something about seeing a stage full of dancers executing the same steps in an almost robotic simultaneity is entrancing, if also just a little scary.
Flatley, who is just beginning to look a little long in the tooth (he turns 53 this week) is still incredibly agile and forceful in his dancing, bringing an athleticism that is more akin to, say, Gene Kelly than to Fred Astaire. There's nothing overtly "graceful" in Flatley's dancing, at least not in the balletic sense. Instead this is aggressive, intense footwork that takes no prisoners and is probably thought of as a Celtic cousin to Flamenco dancing (and in fact Flatley dons a Flamenco outfit late in the show and does a more traditional Flamenco routine). And while the "plot," if it can be called that, of Lord of the Dance is wafer thin, it at least provides for a nice selection of group and solo numbers. While Flatley is clearly aiming for a mythic ambience, Lord of the Dance in actuality revels more in the mythos of a Vegas stage spectacular than in anything culled from ancient Irish or Celtic mythology.
Special mention must be made of the evocative score by Flatley's longtime collaborator Ronan Hardiman. Hardiman is able to gently reference Irish and Celtic ideas but modernizes them nicely, blending them with a wide variety of world beats that ripple out in often unexpected ways. Flatley of course uses onstage musicians in several of the sequences here (he plays the flute in one), and the interplay between the musicians and dancers is one of the indisputable highlights of Lord of the Dance. While one might question whether there's just a hint of megalomania behind Flatley using an ancient hymn which references the risen Christ as his own personal anthem, it's at least fitting in the sense that Flatley, after a couple of major health scares and a lot of people saying he was out of his mind to attempt anything this large, rose from the figurative ashes and triumphed on his own terms.
Lord of the Dance Blu-ray, Video Quality
Lord of the Dance: Michael Flatley Returns is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of entertainmentone with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This entire presentation, while incredibly colorful and decently detailed, suffers from an overall softness which is further exacerbated by an aggressive lighting scheme which bathes the dancers in diffuse shades of red and blue, only adding to the gauzy texture of the piece. Frequently moiré patterns appear rather liberally in the busy light array behind the dancers, especially in the sequence featuring the red lit steps, where they almost overwhelm the image at times. The concert is also played out on a frequently quite dark stage, and crush is fairly rampant, especially in the upstage areas. That's the bad news. The good news is, this is incredibly colorful stuff, and the palette here is not only very lifelike and accurate looking, it's incredibly robust. Detail on the costumes can be quite good, especially in close-ups, though it's worth noting by far the vast majority of this feature is filmed from midrange in order to take in as many dancers as possible at any one time.
Lord of the Dance Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Lord of the Dance: Michael Flatley Returns offers the listener two stupendously excellent lossless tracks, a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix and an LPCM 2.0. If your equipment permits you to experience the 7.1 mix, that's the obvious and overwhelming choice here, as it will bathe you not just in Ronan Hardiman's wonderful music, but in a really at times startling display of surround activity as various clicks, taps and pops of those incredibly fleet feet move across the stage. Fidelity is excellent, with very appealing low end, but also a just warm and inviting sound through all frequency ranges. While the audience sound gets a bit bothersome between pieces, for the most part during the performance it's kept at a minimum. Dynamic range is also superb, especially nicely realized as Hardiman's music goes from a gentle Irish whisper to a full on rock guitar roar.
Lord of the Dance Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Lord of the Dance Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Lord of the Dance is an old fashioned extravaganza, but it's one that's also curiously restrained, never quite completely giving in to glitz and glamour, despite an abundance of rhinestones, tap shoes and lots of impressive lighting effects. Flatley is still a very engaging presence and his troupe has obviously been rehearsed to within an inch of their lives and/or toes. Though the image quality on this Blu-ray leaves a little bit to be desired, the soundtrack is amazingly well presented, and any fans of Flatley and his gargantuan productions will love this release. I still hold out hope these dancers will learn to move their arms someday, but even so, this release is Recommended.
Lord of the Dance: Other Editions
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Lord of the Dance Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Lord of the Dance - July 6, 2011
Blu-ray.com and Entertainment One are offering ten Blu-ray.com members the opportunity to win a Blu-ray copy of Lord of the Dance. This release is currently a Best Buy exclusive, available only in-store on online from Best Buy.
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