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Published: Friday, 10/10/2003

Flatley's extravaganza mixes dance styles, folklore

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Michael Flatley's wildly popular Lord of the Dance delivers more than entertainment, says one of the lead dancers.

It's also good for a shot of energy.

“I have yet to dance a show where the audience isn't tapping their feet and clapping and on their feet by the end,” says Josephine Brennan, who plays the role of the temptress Morrighan. “It's the sheer adrenaline that the audience can get from the dancers on stage.”

Brennan and the rest of the cast of about 40 dancers need plenty of energy, and not just for the high-stepping, fast-paced routines accompanied by dramatic music, elaborate sets, colorful costumes, and flashy pyrotechnics. They also have to deal with the rigors of travel.

They'll roll into Toledo for one performance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Stranahan Theater.

“It's kind of tough,” Brennan, 32, acknowledges in a telephone interview from Johnstown, Pa., on Wednesday, minutes before the troupe's bus was to leave for New Brunswick, N.J. The dancers were to perform there Wednesday night, then leave for the next city yesterday morning.

“Our tours last between 13 and 16 weeks, and we will do 43 to 52 cities in that time,” Brennan says. But although it's demanding physically, traveling is one of the things she says she likes about being with the show, as well as the thrill of performing for 2,000 to 3,000 people every night.

Worldwide, according to the show's publicist, more than 50 million people have seen live performances of Lord of the Dance since its debut in 1996. Fans have bought more than 1.2 million Lord of the Dance music CDs and 9 million videos.

The show was conceived and choreographed by Flatley, the American-born world dance champion who is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the world's fastest feet - 35 taps per second. Flatley, the star of Riverdance before leaving to create his own show, is now artistic director of Lord of the Dance.

“It's phenomenal. Seven years ago, I don't think any of us thought we'd still be going as strongly as we are,” says Brennan, a champion dancer who joined “troupe 2” - the one that tours the United States - in late 1997 and was promoted to her role in 2000. She also serves as dance captain - meaning she is responsible for conducting cast rehearsals and acting as a liaison between the dancers and the show's management - and runs a dance school in Ireland, where she was born and reared.

“This particular show appeals to all walks of life,” Brennan says. “You don't need to love dance to come to Lord of the Dance and have a fantastic evening. You can bring your 4-year-old daughter or 70-year-old grandmother, and they'll both find something to like.”

The show tells a love story and a tale of good vs. evil based on Irish folklore. Brennan, as the seductive Morrighan, tries to draw the Lord to the dark side.

“All our steps are traditional Irish dance, but it's a little bit more glitzy,” she says. Compared with the traditional stiff upper body posture of Celtic dance, the performers use more arm movements and mix in a little jazz, disco, flamenco, and other dance styles, Brennan explains.

Although she loves the excitement of the stage, it's often quiet solitude that she chooses on her own time. `When I'm really relaxing by myself, I will be in a corner enjoying a book,” Brennan says.

Michael Flatley's “Lord of the Dance” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $48.50 and $44.50, available from the Stranahan Theater box office, Ticketmaster, and ticketmaster.com. Information: 419-381-8851.



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