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Cast of Lord of the Dance shows reporter the steps before debut at Ipswich Regent

PUBLISHED: 21:05 06 February 2017 | UPDATED: 08:10 07 February 2017

Reporter Gemma Mitchell learns the basics from The Lords Fergal Keaney and Matt Smith ahead of the debut show at Ipswich Regent.

Reporter Gemma Mitchell learns the basics from The Lords Fergal Keaney and Matt Smith ahead of the debut show at Ipswich Regent.

I have to admit, Irish dancing is not my forte, writes Gemma Mitchell.

Reporter Gemma Mitchell learns the basics from The Lords Fergal Keaney and Matt Smith ahead of the debut show at Ipswich Regent.Reporter Gemma Mitchell learns the basics from The Lords Fergal Keaney and Matt Smith ahead of the debut show at Ipswich Regent.

In fact, the only reason the words ‘Lord of the Dance’ were familiar to me was because of that Friends episode where Chandler talks of Michael Flatley’s legs “flailing about as if independent from his body”.

So when the opportunity arose for me to have a masterclass with the cast of the latest rendition of the world-famous show before they take to the stage of the Ipswich Regent for the first time tonight, I thought it was a great chance to educate myself.

I arrived bushy tailed at 4pm to find the performers rehearsing a few routines and I was amazed by the talent on the stage, with legs moving and feet tapping in a way I had never seen before.

Matt Smith and Fergal Keaney, who both play The Lord, talked me through a few “basic” steps.

Lord of the Dance rehearsals before the opening night at Ipswich Regent.Lord of the Dance rehearsals before the opening night at Ipswich Regent.

The lads were dressed in their impressive red costume and shiny tap shoes, showing me up in my ‘straight-from-the-office-with-no-time-to-change’ ensemble.

All I can say is, it really is as difficult as it looks.

“It’s OK, it took me 10 years to learn how to do this,” Fergal reassured me.

Safe to say I won’t be giving up my day job for a place in the next Lord of the Dance tour.

Lord of the Dance rehearsals before the opening night at Ipswich Regent.Lord of the Dance rehearsals before the opening night at Ipswich Regent.

Tonight it is Matt’s to turn to take centre stage as The Lord, the role originally played by writer and choreographer Flatley.

Matt, 24 and from Bedford, was first inspired to take up Irish dancing after watching Flatley in Lord of the Dance as a child.

“It’s an honour to be able to be taught by him to do the role that he created,” he said.

“I was a little bit nervous performing it in front of him, but he’s always really supportive.”

With the production on its fourth week of a four-month tour, the young dancers need to go to extreme measures to keep themselves physically healthy.

Matt said after a show the cast would face the “Ice Beast”, a plunge into a huge bin filled to stomach-height with ice and water.

“It helps the muscles recuperate,” he said, through gritted teeth.

This incarnation of the show, called Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, written by Flatley to mark the 20th anniversary of the original debut, features new staging, costumes and choreography - and even includes some pyrotechnics.

“It gets pretty hot on stage, and on the front row,” Fergal warned.

It is on at the Ipswich Regent until Thursday.

To read my review of the opening night show, see here.

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