Lord of the Dance

A Video Review

by David M. Raley

What do you get when you combine the Celtic legend of Erin, ballet, tap, "Rough Trade" choreography, (a'la West Side Story), an old Shaker hymn, a resplendent light show, kick-ass sound, an abundance of tireless talent and the history of the world from creation to the execution, Resurrection and ascension of Our Savior? You get Flatley's "Lord of the Dance". The title is taken from the hymn. (Lord of the Dance/Christ's Gracious Life. Page 261 of the Methodist Hymnal) The refrain, with altered tempo is recognizable as a recurring melody; a coda if you will.

Lord of the Dance can be enjoyed at many levels. It is a rousing good show even if the viewer is not familiar enough with the Bible to realize what is being shown. It is easy to suppose that there was a conscious effort to disguise the true message so that non-believers would watch and perhaps be captivated. The tape's box alludes only to Irish legends.

The cast? Males are tight, muscular and handsome. The females; you've heard the term "major babe"? If the females in this show were ranked militarily none would be less than full colonel.

The story is told in dance and music with no real dialog and, except for the narrator's singing, only a few words being spoken at all; the most prominent being, "great soul, great power", a claim made by both sides in the conflict. Like the Bible, some events are told out of sequence. Things happen more or less in the order of the verses of the namesake Hymn. Unlike the Bible some roles are combined, or perhaps the same dancer does several roles.

A word about the Shakers is in order. Their worship was a highly stylized form of dance. The Shaker religion was made up entirely of proselytes as they did not practice reproductive activity. (This explains two things: Why they remained a small movement and why they had time to make such good furniture.)

Bear in mind that the story is told from the spiritual point of view. Parts of it take place in Heaven, parts on the Earth. Flatly is the title character, The Lord of the Dance, that is: Jesus. The child with the flute represents the Kingdom of Heaven; her flute, the Law of God. The men in the masks are mankind, ashamed to show their faces except when dancing with Satan. The blonde who usually wears white is the angelic spirit that will fill the future Church, the bride of Christ. One is tempted to think that this is the same spirit that many believe to have infused Mary while she carried Jesus. The cast is "eat up" with angels. One featured type are the Harp Angels. (Rank them five star generals.) Instead of harps they are playing electric violins. The lady in the long green gown is the narrator. The portrayal of Satan may startle you at first. She is the brunette who usually wears red.

You may want to stop here, buy the tape, watch it, before I give the plot away.

The first parts are fairly straightforward. The flute is played, proclaiming the Law of God. The main characters are introduced, although you might miss one or the other in the fog. You won't miss the Lord however, He first appears out of a glare of light. There are three stripes on his face indicating that He is the whole Trinity at this time. Other characters are then spotlighted. About 28 minutes into the show future Church is dancing with her court. They are wearing tunics over their ballet costumes and have their hair tied up. Satan confronts future Church, flaunting her charms and saying, with dance of course, that she is the more appropriate mate for the Lord. Church responds by saying, also in dance, "you ain't got nothin' sugar-tit, let me show you who does". At this point those who don't apprehend the fundamental feelings that the Lord has for the Church and realize that humans are given physical passion so that we can have a vague notion of how He feels will be outraged. Church and court take down their hair and throw off their tunics. Toes tap, hips sway, legs swing, shoulders roll and knockers bounce. Satan, outdone, slinks away. The Lord and some of His court appears, He greets Church and dances with His court.

After the narrator sings again Satan and Church, dressed in neutral costumes, dance around each other until joined by a representative sample of angels. At the end, the angels choose Satan or Church. The Lord then bursts onto the Earth in a joyous jig that is almost flight, clicking heels together in mid-air and every so often flashing a Masonic sign. Since we are seeing the spiritual aspect of the story it is not necessary that He be shown as a baby. He is soon joined by the Heavenly Hosts dancing praises.

Mankind comes upon the Kingdom character proclaiming the Law of God. Snatches the flute away and breaks it. This singular event is representative of all transgressions past and future. The Lord shows up and restores the Law. The other characters leave the stage and Satan enters to tempt the Lord. He rejects her, mankind comes on stage and dances with her. The harp Angles play again. A slow tune that seems to be mocking Satan's effort. You know how sometimes when someone tells you of some minor misfortune and you make motions as if you were playing them a sad song on the fiddle? That sort thing. The scene switches back to Heaven where various Angels are rejoicing in dance. Presumably because He rejected Satan. Allow me to digress: The Bible does not say that Satan only tried to tempt Jesus. Satan had something that He wanted but passed up.

Now the Lord meets Church at Gethsemane. He has misgivings. He would like to pass up the execution. Satan appears. He flirts with her briefly then rejects her for Church. While displaying His love for Church He is pointed out to Mankind by Satan. Mankind leads Him to his death. Smoke rises over the spot where He descended into Hell. The lighting makes the smoke a skull. While Mankind celebrates, the Kingdom of Heaven character runs on stage and raises a cloud of smoke and light from which the resurrected Lord emerges. There is a final showdown between the Lord and Mankind. The Lord and Church glide into the stars. There follows a general rejoicing in Heaven.

It is unlikely that "Lord of the Dance" will be used as an instruction video at the Church of God campground but it works for me. The whole story is there. To tell a story of words through dance requires some liberty of interpretation. (and) The fact is I have seen greater departures from scripture in Catholic, Protestant and Baptist Churches. No, Baptists are not Protestants. The Baptist movement predates the Roman Church. But that's another story.


Last Update: 12/14/10
Web Author: David M. Raley
Copyright 1998 by David M. Raley - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED