Michael Flatley

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Michael Flatley
Flatley alone cropped.jpg
Flatley performing live in Feet of Flames 2009 in Taipei.
Born Michael Ryan Flatley
(1958-07-16) July 16, 1958 (age 56)
Chicago, Illinois
Nationality American
Education Brother Rice High School
Occupation Dancer, actor, occasional broadcaster, writer, flautist, choreographer
Years active 1991–present
Known for Riverdance (1994–present)
Lord of the Dance (1996–present)
Feet of Flames (1998–2001)
Celtic Tiger (2004–07)
Net worth Increase €225 million (2013)
(GBP£191 million / US$304 million)
Spouse(s) Beata Dziąba (m. 1986–1997; divorced)
Niamh O'Brien (m. 2006)
Children Michael St. James Flatley
(b. 2007)
Official website

Michael Ryan Flatley (born July 16, 1958) is an American-born Irish dancer, choreographer and musician. He became internationally known for Irish dance shows Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames, and Celtic Tiger.

Early life[edit]

Flatley is a native of the South Side of Chicago. He is of Irish American background, being born to Irish parents Michael and Eilish. His parents were both Irish-born, but migrated to the United States several years before Michael's birth. Michael was the second of five children. He has three sisters, Anne-Marie, Eliza, and Thomasina, as well as a brother, Patrick. He began dancing lessons at 11 and, in 1975, became the first non-European resident to win the World Championship for Irish dance.[1] He is 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, but later closed it down because he thought he would be a better performer than a teacher.[2]


Early career[edit]

Flatley was the first American to win the World Irish Dance Championships[citation needed] and he also won numerous All-Ireland Flute Championships.[citation needed]

From 1978 to 1979 he toured with Green Fields of America, and in the 1980s he toured with The Chieftains.[3]

He received the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship in 1988.[citation needed] In May 1989, Flatley set a Guinness Book world record for tapping speed at 28 taps per second, and subsequently broke his own record in 1998 with 35 taps per second.[4] 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.[citation needed]

Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, and beyond[edit]

Flatley created and choreographed the original Riverdance[citation needed] and led the show to great success[citation needed] 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. Flatley also produced the show "Heart Beat of Home."

Flatley broke his own record for tapping speed in February 1998, by achieving 35 taps per second.[5] 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.[6]

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.

Celtic Tiger[edit]

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 2006, Flatley released his own autobiographical book titled Lord of the Dance: My Story. Regarding his future, Flatley was quoted in the Celtic Tiger program book as saying, "I will be a dancer until the day I die".

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.[7] The Variety Club of Ireland presented Flatley with their Entertainer of the Decade Award in 2008.[8]

In fall 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.

Return to the stage[edit]

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.[7]

In 2010, he returned to headline the Lord of the Dance show, with performances in arenas across England and Ireland, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.[9] Lord of the Dance 3D, the film of the return tour, debuted in theaters worldwide in 2011. The movie featured new sets, new costumes, state-of-the-art lighting, pyrotechnics and projections, and it shows the performances from the O2 Arenas of London, Dublin, and Berlin.[10] A DVD and Blu-ray Disc of the film was released entitled Michael Flatley Returns as Lord of the Dance. The 3D version of the film was released only in Blu-ray.

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. Flatley was also among the list of international film and sports stars and amateur golfers who participated in the fundraising golf Pro-Am, the JP McManus Pro-Am in Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort in Adare, County Limerick, Ireland in 2010.

In 2011, he was inducted into Irish America magazine's Irish America Hall of Fame.[11]

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.[12]

A Night to Remember[edit]

On May 18, 2014, Flatley recorded a one-off 60 minute special entitled Michael Flatley: A Night to Remember celebrating his long career. The show aired on June 1, 2014 and was presented by Christine Bleakley.[13]

Personal life[edit]

In 1986, Flatley wed Polish make-up artist Beata Dziąba; they divorced in 1997.

In 2003, an allegation was made by real estate agent Tyna Marie Robertson claiming that Flatley had raped her in 2002 at a Las Vegas hotel. In the subsequent court case she was ordered to pay $11 million compensation for the defamation and for extortion.[14]

In April 2006, Flatley spoke about his recent discovery of a facial skin cancer.[15] He had kept the cancer a closely guarded secret, but said, "I'm completely fine now, thank God."

At the 10th Anniversary of Lord of the Dance in June 2006, Flatley was accompanied by dancer Niamh O'Brien, who dances with him in Celtic Tiger. O'Brien had danced with Flatley in Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, and Feet of Flames before they shared the stage in Celtic Tiger. The two shortly thereafter announced that they were dating, and were married in a Roman Catholic ceremony in Fermoy, County Cork, on October 14, 2006.[16]

On November 15, 2006, Flatley was admitted to a private London hospital with a viral infection.[17] All the fall and winter tours of his latest production, Celtic Tiger, were cancelled. He was discharged two weeks later.[18]

Niamh Flatley gave birth to a son, Michael St. James Flatley, on Thursday April 26, 2007.[16]

Flatley's financial worth in 2006 was estimated at £350 million (US$530 million) in a Daily Mail article,[19] and he is known to maintain homes in Barbados, United States, France, Ireland and London. As of 2010, his estimated fortune is around $650 million (UK: £421 million; Ireland: €495 million).[citation needed]

He currently resides in Castle Hyde, Co Cork.[citation needed]

In other media[edit]

Flatley and his work have been referenced and parodied in a wide variety of media, including television shows such as Mystery Science Theater 3000, Friends, Britain's Got Talent, I'm Alan Partridge, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Celebrity Deathmatch, and movies such as Dudley Do-Right and The Boondock Saints, as well as The Simpsons episode The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star.


  1. ^ [1]. Irishamerica.com. Retrieved on March 20, 2015.
  2. ^ http://www.lifetimetv.co.uk/biography/biography-michael-flatley
  3. ^ Michael Flatley MIKEroCosm. Celticcafe.com. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  4. ^ michaelflatley.com. Retrieved on November 1, 2014.
  5. ^ "Awards and honors". MichaelFlatley.com. 
  6. ^ michaelflatley.com, Awards and Honors, accessed April 13, 2008
  7. ^ a b Michael Flatley Smashes Box Office Records in Taiwan. Business Wire (December 21, 2009). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  8. ^ About Michael :: Awards & Honors. MichaelFlatley.com. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  9. ^ "Lord of the Dance returns to Ireland"
  10. ^ Cox, Gordon (December 8, 2010). "'Lord' dances to screens in 3D". Variety. 
  11. ^ McGoldrick, Debbie. "The Man Who Brought Irish Dance To the Global Stage", Irish America magazine, March 10, 2011. Accessed March 22, 2011. "He's been the world's most famous lord for the past 15 years. Now Michael Flatley is poised to become a movie star ... and a 3D one at that."
  12. ^ On A Different Note
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ "Flatley wins $11m over rape claim". BBC News Online. December 8, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2007. 
  15. ^ "Flatley faced cancer scare after TV chat". ContactMusic.com. 
  16. ^ a b Daily Mirror (October 15, 2006). "Flatley dances up aisle". The Daily Mirror. 
  17. ^ Castle, Tim (November 16, 2006). ""Celtic" dancer Flatley in hospital, cancels tour". Reuters.com. Retrieved December 9, 2007. 
  18. ^ "News and Events". MichaelFlatley.com. 
  19. ^ "Lord of the dance fights for his life". thisislondon.co.uk, which is part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard & Metro Media Group. November 16, 2006. 

External links[edit]