Today is the final day of our St. Patrick’s Day
celebration and what better way to end it than with…
The Lord of the Dance: Michael Flatley!
I will be a dancer until the day I die
Flatley is a native of the South Side of Chicago. He is of Irish American background, being born to Irish parents. He began dancing lessons at 12 and, in 1975, became the first non-European resident to win the World Championship for Irish dance. He is a trained amateur pugilist as well as a proficient flautist, having twice won the All-Ireland Competition. In dance, Flatley was taught by Dennis Dennehy at the Dennehy School of Irish Dance in Chicago, then went on to produce his own show. After graduating from Brother Rice High School, on Chicago’s Southwest Side, he opened a dance school.
Flatley created and choreographed the original Riverdance and led the show to great success as the intermission act in the Eurovision Song Contest on April 30, 1994. Flatley then starred in the full-length show that was developed from the seven-minute number.
After the show’s first run in London, Flatley left Riverdance in late 1995 due to problems over creative control. He then produced, directed, and choreographed Lord of the Dance, which played mostly in arenas and stadiums instead of theaters. He also put together a dance production called Feet of Flames in 1998. He later went on to produce another version of that show with around 50% different numbers from the 1998 show. Titled Feet of Flames: The Victory Tour, he toured Europe in 2000 and the U.S. in 2001.
In December 2001, Flatley became the first recipient of the Irish Dancing Commission Fellowship award, an honorary degree in Irish dance, and was simultaneously made a Fellow of the American Irish Dance Teachers’ Association. Irish America magazine named Flatley Irish American of the Year in March 2003. In 2004, Flatley received an honorary doctorate degree from University College Dublin, and that same year received the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor in New York.
Flately’s latest Irish dance show is Celtic Tiger, which opened in July 2005. The show explores the history of the Irish people and Irish emigration to the U.S., fusing a wide range of dance styles, including jazz. The show also includes popular elements from his previous shows, such as Flatley’s flute solos and the line of dancers in the finale.
In 2007, The Freedom of the City of Cork was conferred on Flatley at a ceremony in Cork’s City Hall. In 2008, he was conferred with the Freedom of the Borough of Sligo at a ceremony in Sligo City Hall. The Variety Club of Ireland presented Flatley with their Entertainer of the Decade Award in 2008.
In the fall of 2007, Flatley and a troupe of male dancers performed on Dancing with the Stars in the U.S. In 2008, he appeared as a guest judge on an episode of the show, filling in for Len Goodman. Also in 2008, he performed the solo “Capone” from Celtic Tiger on the show. Flatley was also the host of the 2009 NBC series Superstars of Dance.
Flatley returned to the stage in 2009 for a limited run of the “Hyde Park” version of Feet of Flames in Taiwan. His return was met with multiple standing ovations and the run of shows had to be extended to meet the demand for tickets.
In 2010, he returned to headline the Lord of the Dance show, with performances in arenas across England and Ireland, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Lord of the Dance 3D, the film of the return tour, debuted in theaters worldwide in 2011.
Also in 2010, Flatley launched The Garden of Music and Memory in Culfadda, County Sligo, the village his father left to seek a new life in America. The ceremony included a speech and an impromptu performance of one of his father’s favorite tunes.
In 2011, he was inducted into Irish America magazine’s Irish America Hall of Fame.
Flatley released a flute album titled On A Different Note in 2011. The 25 tracks include airs and tunes he has played in his shows, other traditional tunes, and new compositions.
Rivedance! Seven minutes that started in all at the 1994 EuroVision Song Contest
Feet of Flames Solo 1998 London
Dancing with the Stars 2008
Fun Facts About Mr. Michael Flatley
Flatley was the first American to win the World Irish Dance Championships and he also won numerous All-Ireland Flute Championships.
From 1978 to 1979 he toured with Green Fields of America, and in the 1980s he toured with The Chieftains.
He received the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship in 1988.
In May 1989, Flatley set a Guinness Book world record for tapping speed at 28 taps per second.
Flatley was named one of National Geographic Society’s Living Treasures in 1991 for mastery of a traditional art form by a living person – the youngest person at that time ever to receive this accolade.
Flatley broke his own record for tapping speed in February 1998, by achieving 35 taps per second.
Flatley also received Guinness Book recognition in both 1999 and 2000 for being the highest paid dancer, earning $1,600,000 per week and for having the highest insurance policy placed on a dancer’s legs at $40,000,000.