Spirit of the King

Producer David King has taken a sprinkling of jazz, a dash of ballet, a generous portion of tap and added them to the original Irish formula of ‘Spirit of the Dance’ to cook up ‘The New Tap Dance Show.'

David King 521 (photo credit: Courtesy of Spirit of the Dance)
David King 521
(photo credit: Courtesy of Spirit of the Dance)
Some believe that the age of romance and good-old fashioned entertainment has been pummeled into submission by the world of instant virtual sound and vision bites. Try telling that to David King. The 62-year-old Jewish producer from Leeds, England, came up with the idea of the Spirit of the Dance extravaganza in 1996, and the rest has been an incrementally evolving history.
In the intervening years, King’s entertainment empire has developed and spread, spawning a wide range of productions, including the original show, to take in such titles as Man in the Mirror, The Michael Jackson Show and Dancing Queen. The latest format of King’s multifaceted dance offering is simply called The New Tap Dance Show, which will be put on seven times at four venues here between February 22 and 27, taking in Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv, The Jerusalem International Convention Center, the Congress Center in Haifa and the Beersheba Performing Arts Center.
“It’s a tap show and Irish dance show all rolled into one,” explains King. “We’ve got a show called Tap Dance Fever, and we’ve taken the best part of that and put it together with the best of Spirit [of the Dance] to make a new show. We’re really excited about it.”
Fusing choreography from different cultures and artistic idioms is nothing new to King, even though he got his initial inspiration from a pure form of dance.
“I was dragged along to see Riverdance in 1996 by some friends who had a spare ticket,” he says. “It was already massive in London but, to be honest, I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t interested in Irish dancing.”
What caught King’s eye was the reactions of the people around him in the auditorium. “I was watching the audience more than the actual show, and I could see they were just lapping it up.”
A business idea was born then and there.
“I walked out of there saying ‘I could make a show like this.’ I didn’t want to do the same thing – that would have been a waste of time – it was that type of entertainment I was looking at. I went off and created Spirit of the Dance. It’s not Riverdance, but Irish dance is still the backbone of it.”
It was the business opening King had been looking for, for quite a few years.
“Like all Jewish boys, if you’re not a doctor or a lawyer, you go into business,” he observes. “I’d been flying by the seat of my pants for some time. I got some business ideas right and some wrong – actually, most were wrong.”
King’s financial instability ended with Spirit of the Dance, and he has been on an ever-ascending financial trajectory ever since.
“It has changed my life and the lives of everyone around me. We now have something like 500 dancers across the world.”
There are four resident shows and two touring groups in the US alone, and Spirit of the Dance now operates 10 dancing troupes that tour the world on a regular basis. The long-running extravaganza has been doing the rounds of the global circuit for 15 years and has drawn audiences of more than 30 million, garnering nine Global Awards in the process.
By the way, if there are any talented, athletic and Celtic-oriented young dancers out there who think they can just waltz, tap or foxtrot their way into one of King’s show formats, they’d be well advised to temper their enthusiasm. There is a long rocky road to be traversed before you can get a foot or two in the Spirit of the Dance and its spinoffs’ door. “Because our Irish shows have so many different styles of dance, we train for four weeks on the Irish; but the dancers have also have to be able to do tap and jazz and a bit of ballet and everything else,” King explains.
But it was not just stylistic versatility he was looking for. He wanted his shows to exude a definitely attractive and sunshiny ambience to his audiences which, he says, was not too evident in the original format.
“Irish dance, traditionally, was taught to people in Ireland, and they weren’t supposed to smile or project or be happy. They had a bit of a miserable face. What we do is make it smiling and giggling and exciting.”
That, King continues, necessarily means looking outside the Emerald Isle.
“You can’t get an Irish dancer to do that. It’s just not in their makeup.
They’ve taken part in all sorts of competitions, and they’ve been told, ‘Don’t smile. Look forward and [with] no personality.’” Presumably, however, when you start an Irish dance-based venture, you must feed off the source.
“We had real champion Irish dancers to begin with. They were brilliant dancers, but they couldn’t project,” states King.
Then again, you can also take non-Irish professionals and bring Ireland to them.
“We decided to take the basic Irish steps and teach that to top-flight commercial dancers. Before that, we were getting a great Irish display, but it wasn’t a big happy smiley show.”
For King it’s about making a living but, far more importantly, it’s about offering the public a good time.
“We sell tickets – that’s the Jewish part of it – but we want people to come out of our shows feeling that they’ve had a great experience.
Thankfully, that’s what happens.”
The producer says that incorporating different dance styles in his shows imbues them with universal appeal.
“Spirit of the Dance, in particular, has eight or 10 dance styles in it, so there’s kind of something for everybody. When I saw Riverdance, after a couple of times of seeing it, as great as it was, it was 90 percent Irish dance. Once you’ve seen it, you’ve really seen it and it does tend to get a bit monotonous. People have said that about that show. But with my show, each piece is five or 10 minutes long, and if you like it or don’t like it, there’s another piece coming just around the corner.
Hang on, it’s going to be great.”
King’s marketing ethos has certainly proven to be a global winner, and Spirit of the Dance and its sibling shows have been entertaining the masses very successfully all over the world for a long time. There is no reason to believe the Israeli masses won’t be equally as thrilled with The New Tap Dance Show this month.
The New Tap Dance Show will be performed on February 25 at 9 p.m. at Binyenei Ha’uma. Tickets: *6226 or www.bimot.co.il