“Lord of the Dance,” quite literally, changed Justin Boros’ life.
Now touring with his own unique production – “Rhythm in the Night: The Irish Dance Spectacular” – Justin was a 15-year-old member of the high school basketball team in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, when he first saw the famed troupe led by Michael Flatley perform on PBS.
“I was kind of enthralled by the performance … it just kind of really intrigued me,” he said.
Justin went to see the group perform multiple times, and acknowledges he “became a little obsessed with it.” He even bought a pair of dance shoes and began, in his parents’ basement, to teach himself the technique he’d seen on stage.
“Everyone else would go out at night,” he said. “I would go home and practice Irish dancing.”
Justin created an audition tape, and while his family was vacationing in Florida he submitted the video to “Lord of the Dance.” Unexpectedly, he was called back to audition after a show the next night.
“It was pretty exciting,” he said.
Justin was invited to join the production, and was soon on a plane back to Ohio to pack. He spent the next 2½ years touring with “Lord of the Dance” across the Americas and Europe.
“It’s kind of a unique situation,” he said of the whirlwind nature of his dancing career’s beginning.
As Justin brings “Rhythm in the Night” to Cranston’s historic Park Theatre on Saturday, he said those on hand will see his own vision of Irish dance – one that differs quite a bit from “Lord of the Dance.” While describing his experience with that troupe as “incredible” and the inspiration for his continued pursuit of Irish dance, he is driven by a desire to put on a “different kind of show.”
“Irish dance has for so many years kind of been a cookie cutter approach,” he said.
Justin formed Two Step Productions with Gregg Senko, a veteran Irish dancer who has performed with “Lord of the Dance” and “Riverdance,” in 2008. After completing his master’s degree, he decided to “put the pedal to the metal” to create “Rhythm in the Night,” which he’d been working on for several years.
Music, Justin said, is the “backbone” of the production, and he “wanted it to be much different than traditional Irish music … orchestral, epic.”
That’s where fellow Ohio natives Andrew and Jared DePolo came in. The duo – whose resume includes songs for national advertising campaigns, a documentary and their own orchestral album – crafted a score around Justin’s choreography.
“It’s almost like a film score,” Justin said, noting that in Irish dance the choreography typically follows music composition.
“Rhythm in the Night” also takes a unique approach in its storytelling. Justin plays the role of Balor, a hero who is trapped under the spell of a sorceress named Azura. Senko plays the role of Solas, Balor’s brother, and joins in a journey that culminates with the spell being lifted.
Justin’s imposing physical stature – he stands at 6 feet, 4 inches tall – has always stood out as a performer. That trait, along with Justin’s personal dedication to further enhancing his physique through years of training, make Balor a character unlike any other in Irish dance.
“It’s a good versus evil theme,” said Justin. “Great movies are always remembered by their villain. I thought, why not just train for it, and be a figure like that?”
People are consistently wowed, Justin said, by his size and ability, and he frequently hears the question, “How does a big guy like you move like that?”
“Rhythm in the Night” opened last Friday, and Justin said the reaction has wildly exceeded expectations.
“We’ve gotten standing ovations every night,” he said.
Looking ahead, Justin hopes to continue in Irish dance, and to bring his vision to the stage. For now, he’s focused on making his first production the best it can be.
“I think people will see that there’s something new here, there’s something different. It’s something for everybody,” he said. “We’re hoping this will be around for a while.”
“Rhythm in the Night” begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Park Theatre, located at 848 Park Ave. Tickets are $25, $35 and $45, and are available by calling the box office at 467-7275 or visiting www.ParkTheatreRI.com.
Special ticket discounts are available for dance troupes and schools.