At age 25, Jason Gorman already is a seasoned veteran of Michael Flatley's Celtic spectacular "Lord of the Dance."
The Long Beach native, who stars in the Flatley role in the touring production coming Thursday to the Gallo Center for the Arts, got into the show for the first time at age 16 and was picked for the lead at 19.
"I'm a perfectionist," he said in a phone interview from a tour stop in Iowa. "I wanted to work hard and work toward something. It was the next step. It's fun to be in charge a little bit and carry the show on your shoulders."
Featuring a cast of about 40, "Lord of the Dance" is based on Irish folklore and is told solely through movement and a little song. Don Dorcha, Lord of Darkness, challenges the ethereal lord of light, the Lord of the Dance, in an epic battle. The show features passion, a love story, fiddle playing and Celtic rhythms.
It debuted in Ireland in 1996 and since has been seen by more than 50 million people in 60 countries.
People love the show because it's easy to understand and they enjoy seeing the athletic side of Irish dancing.
"It's interesting to watch people do something extreme," Gorman, pictured in inset above, said. "Our society is obsessed with extreme anything. If you watch any reality TV show today, you can see that."
Gorman started learning Irish dancing around age 12 or 13 after he attended class with his cousin. He said he was clumsy at first but after long practice grasped the style and mastered it.
When he's not on the road he works as a dance teacher in a range of dance forms. His main passion actually is contemporary dance, including jazz and modern.
"The only thing I don't do is tap," he said. "Tap is a totally different ball game."
His "Lord of the Dance" tour began three weeks ago and will run until the end of this month around the country. Later, the cast will head to Taiwan and Israel.
To keep in shape, Gorman does yoga as much as he can and also does Pilates and gyrotonics. He also enjoys cardio kick boxing and climbing.
"I look for new and exciting ways to shock my body," he said.
The touring show features an equal number of male and female dancers, live fiddlers and a singer who perform to recorded accompaniment. It's just as elaborate as any big-city staging, Gorman said.
"Michael (Flatley) has spared no expense as far as the show is concerned," he said. "The lighting design is just beautiful. We have one of the top lighting designers in the world. The costumes have been updated. Everything is modernized and more sparkly. The set is beautiful."
Microphones are built into the specially made stage that travels with the production. The cast works hard to make sure that their steps are always in synch, Gorman said.
"If you even walk on it, the mike picks it up," he said. "To get 40 people to dance without making extra noises is very difficult and you have to rehearse constantly."
Flatley, who created the show, is still very involved in the touring productions and will come to Modesto to rehearse the performers (though not appear on stage), Gorman said.
"If he's not out here, he's on the phone with us — in very close contact," Gorman said. "They videotape the shows and he watches them. He wants only the best. There's a very high standard that's expected of us. It keeps the show sharp and fresh.
"People are paying a lot for these tickets and they should get the best."
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