Visiting a rest home, I found the residents unusually engrossed. They were watching a DVD called Lord of the Dance - Dangerous Games. Because they so engrossed, I decided against the usual outing I do with one of the people there, and watched it with them.
So, Lord of the Dance - Dangerous Games is ostensibly an entertainment extravaganza with a backbone of Irish Dancing. I am new to this so I thought of it as part Cirque du Soleil, part ballet, and part pop concert. It claimed to tell a simple story of good versus evil. It was fairly easy to tell who was good and who was evil, thusly:
Good: white, blonde, water, nature, freedom, carefree semi-nakedness, lack of artifice, smiles
Bad: red, black, fire, sexual wiles, metal, regimentation, modified bodies, stern countenance
In other words, morality is an aesthetic. It's not about how anyone behaves, it's all about a set of tropes where the stereotyping isn't even subtle or considered. You just knew when the bad guy, the evil Dark Lord, came out. He was part Black Metal vocalist, part Tom of Finland, part Rothbart. You could pick the bad girl too. She had long black hair and a slightly BDSM tinge to her tight black outfit. Naturally she got better dance moves than the good girl, who looked like a low rent Marilyn Monroe in a platinum wig and a cute white dress which she was almost wearing. The good guy, supposedly the rightful Lord of the Dance, was noted for being conventionally handsome, and he won his battle against the Dark Lord by taking his shirt off to reveal an impressive six pack. Half the audience cheered enthusiastically. This was a brilliant dance step as well as a killer fighting move. The only man who I have ever seen match it was All Black and serial football code switcher Sonny Bill Williams, who could win a rugby match by removing his shirt. And then the whole audience cheered enthusiastically. But dancing is dancing. Apart from some hamming ('dance menacingly!' 'dance handsomely!') footwork is footwork whoever you play. It is the aesthetics more than the skill that separates Odette from Odile.
I was most interested in the sexual stereotyping. For the men, the Dark Lord was not a sexually interesting figure - he was too unnatural and contrived, and wore way too many clothes. The good Lord of the Dance played on conventional good looks, and somehow his getting some of his kit off was not considered at all exploitative. The male dancers all were as handsome as their dancing.
As for the women, they were all babes. The good girl and the Lord of the Dance's rightful gf was cute and pretty and and the bad girl who tried to seduce him was dark and smouldering. But they were both babes. The dance troupe women were babes. The violinists were babes, in tight sequinned dresses and high heels. The vocalist was a babe. All babes. All wearing more or less revealing clothing and one sequence removing some of it.
Nudity betokened virtue. The bad guys were fully clothed, except for the wicked seductress, perhaps because there is never any point in a fully clothed woman, and her role was to express the evil power of women's sexuality. Clothing seemed to represent artifice and restriction, while nudity represented freedom and joy. A happy idyll indeed.
At the end, the show's director Michael Flatley came out and danced with the crew. He indicated cast members and singled them out for special applause. He made Usain Bolt gestures. He led the cheers and involved himself in several encores. He came across as part circus ring master and part paterfamilias, as he passed on the torch of Irish dancing extravaganza to the next generation of babes and six packed Ladies Night specials. But his behaviour disturbed me, especially in the light of recent revelations about rampant sexual harassment in the entertainment industry (surprising no one, ever). Mr Flatley flitted from woman to woman, embracing and kissing them and putting his arm around their waists. And they played on, smiling, and they danced on, smiling. And I was thinking, each time, of course she keeps on smiling, even though this guy is practically groping her, she's on stage, he's the Man, he's the Director, and when he has the Power, you keep on smiling and you save your goddam dignity for some time much later.