More than 60 million people from 68 countries have seen Lord of the Dance, the highest-grossing Irish dance show in the world created in 1996 by Michael Flatley.
The show is coming to the Milwaukee Theatre on Friday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Lord of the Dance is a love story of good versus evil based on mythical Irish folklore with more than 40 dancers handpicked by Flatley.
Twenty-year-old Zachary Klingenberg is the lead dancer with the challenging task of filling Flatley's shows. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Klingenberg spent 15 years training and has won the Midwest Regional Championship, placed second in the North American Championship and placed eighth at the World Championship.
He graduated from Bexley High School in Columbus in 2010, and has been dancing with Lord of the Dance since.
OnMilwaukee.com recently chatted with Klingenberg over the phone about the challenges and joys of professional Irish dancing and life on the road.
OnMilwaukee.com: How long have you been Irish dancing?
Zachary Klingenberg: For 15 years. My family saw a production on St. Parick's Day (many years ago) and they enrolled my older brother in dance classes. Then my younger brother and I started taking classes, too. I was about 5 at the time. They both danced until they were freshman in high school, but I kept going.
OMC: How did you get the job with Lord of The Dance?
ZK: It was similar to applying to college. I mailed in a video and an application. Mr. Flatley reviews all of the applications and videos and a tour manager contacted me and asked me to join the show a week after I graduated from high school.
OMC: How long did it take you to learn the routine?
ZK: It took about a month of very rigorous training. Then, my first tour – which was three years ago – was in Taiwan.
OMC: Have you met Mr. Flatley?
ZK: Yes, I've met him in person. He did some of the training and he gives us a lot of advice. He really pushes you to be your absolute best.
OMC: What is your favorite part of the show?
ZK: As cliche as it sounds, I really like the end of the show. The last two numbers in particular. We really get to let loose with the audience and have fun and appreciate the show that just happened.
OMC: How many shows a week do you perform?
ZK: When I'm on tour, we do about 6-8 shows a week.
OMC: Wow. Has it gotten easier or more exhausting over time to do so many shows?
ZK: Both. My fitness level has gotten better but there are physical strains from the repetition. But I really enjoy it. It's not your typical lifestyle. I'm having a lot of fun.
OMC: Is it difficult to eat well and stay healthy when you're touring so much?
ZK: We maintain a pretty healthy regiment on the road and usually eat pretty well. But sometimes I'll eat whatever I can get my hands on.
OMC: What do you like to do when you are not on the road?
ZK: I like playing basketball and art. Someday I want to study graphic design at a university. But for now, I am just really enjoying myself and all that I'm learning and how I'm developing as a performer. Who knows what's to come.
OMC: Why do you think this show is so popular?
ZK: It's a universal story line. No matter where you are or what you've done you can connect with this show. And they've done a good job updating and moving the show into the future. We just got new costumes and sets. The show stays ahead of the curve so it remains current and intriguing to the audience.
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