Michael Ryan Flatley
July 16, 1958
Detroit, Michigan
|Years active||1969–2016 (dancing)|
|Known for||Irish dancer, actor, occasional broadcast presenter, writer, flautist, choreographer|
Lord of the Dance (1996–2016)
Feet of Flames (1998–2001)
Celtic Tiger Live (2004–2007)
Michael Ryan Flatley (born July 16, 1958) is an Irish-American dancer, choreographer, and musician. He became internationally known for Irish dance shows Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames, and Celtic Tiger Live. Flatley's shows have played to more than 60 million people in 60 countries and have grossed more than $1 billion.
Flatley is credited with reinventing traditional Irish dance by incorporating new rhythms, syncopation, and upper body movements, which were previously absent from the dance. He is in the Guinness World Records for tap dancing 35 times per second and his feet were at one time insured for $57.6 million. Flatley retired in 2016 due to constant spinal, knee, foot, and rib pain.
Flatley is a native of South Side, Chicago. He is of Irish ancestry. His parents were both born in Ireland, Michael from County Sligo and Elizabeth (Eilish) (née Ryan) from County Carlow, but immigrated to the United States in 1947, 11 years before Michael's birth. Michael Sr. was a plumber who inspired his son by playing Irish music and Eilish was a gifted step dancer. His grandmother, Hannah Ryan, was a champion dancer. Michael is the second of five children. He has three sisters, Anne-Marie, Eliza and Thomasina, as well as a brother, Patrick.
Beginning in the late 1960s, when Flatley was 11 years old, he was taught dance by Dennis G. Dennehy at the Dennehy School of Irish Dance in Chicago. Flatley went to Brother Rice High School, an all-boys Catholic private school on Chicago's Southwest Side.
After graduating high school, Flatley worked as a stockbroker, a blackjack gambler, and a flautist. From 1978 to 1979, Flatley toured with Green Fields of America. In the 1980s, he toured with The Chieftains but the relationship soured when Flatley wanted to become a full-time member of the band. Flatley appeared in a segment of a 1991 episode of the game show To Tell the Truth talking about being (at the time) the world’s fastest tap dancer.
After attracting the attention of Ireland’s president, Mary Robinson, and dance-show producers, Flatley was invited to help create an intermission show for the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. Flatley, alongside co-choreographer and fellow Chieftains performer Jean Butler and vocal ensemble Anúna, performed a 7-minute show for the interval act of the contest, which was held in Ireland. After receiving worldwide acclaim, Flatley pushed to turn the show into a full length production which became Riverdance. The show was produced by Moya Doherty, with principal choreography by Flatley and lead performances by Flatley and Butler. 
In September 1995, after the show sold out, Flatley left Riverdance to pursue what would eventually become Lord of the Dance. Flatley had been in a dispute with the producers over his salary and royalty fees. He was fired the night before the show was set to open in London and replaced with Colin Dunne. He also did not work well with Butler, who later said that, although he was "extremely charming", she wasn't attracted to him and he was put off by that. On the split, Flatley said, "I just wanted control over the work that I had created myself. That's all. I don't think that that's too much to ask. I felt like I built it and they took it, and that's the end of it... and it hurt."
Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames
Immediately after the Riverdance split, Flatley decided to create his own show, Lord of the Dance, which was capable of playing in arenas and stadiums aside from traditional theaters. It premiered in June 1996 at the Point Theatre (now 3Arena) in Dublin then made its U.K. premiere at the London Coliseum. The music for the show was composed by Ronan Hardiman. In 1997, Flatley earned £36 million, ranking him 25th among the world's highest earning entertainers.
In 1998, Flatley created an expanded version of the show called Feet of Flames which served as its one-off performance and his final performance in Lord of the Dance. It was performed outdoors in the Rotten Row area of Hyde Park, London on a gigantic 4-tier hydraulic stage, with a live band, and over 100 dancers performing on all four levels of the stage during the finale. Ronan Hardiman's music from the original Lord of the Dance was used again along with new compositions, also by Hardiman himself. The show featured six new numbers; one of which is Flatley's solo.
Following the success of the 1998 Hyde Park show, Flatley produced another version of Feet of Flames in 1999, which included half of the original show and half new material. Titled Feet of Flames: The Victory World Tour, the show was performed a single-level stage and toured Europe in 2000 and the U.S. in 2001.
Flatley's next show, Celtic Tiger Live, 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.
Flatley wrote "I will be a dancer until the day I die" in the program book of the show.
On November 15, 2006, Flatley was admitted to a private London hospital with a viral infection. All the fall and winter tours of Celtic Tiger Live were cancelled. He was discharged two weeks later.
Television performances (2007–2009)
In November 2007, Flatley and a troupe of male dancers performed on Dancing with the Stars in the U.S. In October 2008, he appeared as a guest judge on an episode of the show, filling in for Len Goodman. He performed the solo "Capone" from Celtic Tiger on the show. Flatley was also the host of Superstars of Dance, an NBC series that ran for 5 episodes in early 2009.
Return to the stage (2009–2010)
In 2010, he returned to headline the Lord of the Dance show, with performances in arenas in England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. However, unlike the original show, the stage for the 2010 Return Tour was redesigned; it featured new sets, new costumes, state-of-the-art lighting, pyrotechnics, and projections.
Lord of the Dance 3D, the 3D film of the return tour, debuted in theaters worldwide in 2011.  The 3D film was later released on DVD and Blu-ray under the title, Michael Flatley Returns as Lord of the Dance, and shows performances from the O2 Arenas of London, Dublin, and Berlin.
Flute album (2011)
A Night to Remember, Dangerous Games
On May 18, 2014, Flatley recorded a one-off 60 minute ITV Music Specials episode titled Michael Flatley: A Night to Remember celebrating his long career. The show aired on June 1, 2014 and was presented by Christine Bleakley.
Also in the same year, Flatley created a revised spin-off of Lord of the Dance, entitled Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, which featured a similar storyline with new numbers, as well as new music by Gerard Fahy, who previously served as a bandleader and musical director in Flatley's shows. However, it still features some traces of Ronan Hardiman's composition.
Injuries, farewell tour, and retirement
In May 2015, Flatley revealed that much of his vertebral column was irreparably damaged and that he had a damaged left knee, a torn right calf/triceps surae muscle, two ruptured Achilles tendons, a fractured rib, and a recurring broken bone in his foot.
In November 2015, Flatley's show Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games premiered at the Lyric Theatre, a Broadway theatre. Due to his injuries, Flatley was only able to perform in the final two numbers of the performance. After shows in New York, Flatley went on a final tour in the United States. Flatley's last show was in Las Vegas on St. Patrick's Day 2016.
In 2018, Flatley wrote, directed, financed, and starred in Blackbird, a spy fiction movie set in Barbados, Ireland and the UK. The film co-stars Patrick Bergin and Eric Roberts. Blackbird was scheduled to receive its world premiere in a private showing at the Raindance Film Festival in London, where Flatley was also a member of the Festival Jury. As of November 2018, the filmmakers are yet to announce a date for the film's general release, though pre-production work has already begun on Flatley's second film, titled Dreamdance, set in Hollywood at the outbreak of World War II.
Awards and achievements
In December 2001, Flatley became the first recipient of the Irish Dancing Commission Fellowship award, an honorary degree in Irish dance, and was also made a Fellow of the American Irish Dance Teachers' Association. In March 2003, Irish America magazine named Flatley Irish American of the Year. 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.
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. Also in 2008, The Variety Club of Ireland presented Flatley with their Entertainer of the Decade Award.
attired of the first.
shield is heraldically called dancetée while the pile wavy resembles a river, therefore aluding to his dancing career.
In 2001, Flatley purchased Castlehyde, the house originally owned by Douglas Hyde, the first president of Ireland, near Fermoy in north-east Cork, then in a derelict condition, for €3 million. Flatley spent €27 million renovating the mansion and another €20 million furnishing it with artwork and antiques. In 2015, Flatley purchased a mansion in Belgravia, just off Eaton Square, for €28 million and listed Castlehyde for sale for €20 million.
In addition to Castlehyde and his London mansion, Flatley owns valuable properties in the Caribbean, New York, Beverly Hills, and Villefranche-sur-Mer. He has invested a significant portion of his wealth in Berkshire Hathaway.
In 2003, Flatley was falsely accused of rape by real estate agent Tyna Marie Robertson. Flatley maintained that the sex was consensual, and in the subsequent court case, Robertson was ordered to pay $11 million compensation to Flatley for defamation and extortion.
In 2006, Flatley released Lord of the Dance: My Story, his autobiography.
In April 2006, Flatley spoke about his facial skin cancer.
In June 2006, Flatley began dating dancer Niamh O'Brien, who danced in several of his shows. They were married in a Roman Catholic ceremony in Fermoy, County Cork, on October 14, 2006, with a reception at Castlehyde. He and his wife have a son, Michael St. James, born in 2007.
In 2010, Flatley dedicated the Garden of Memory and Music 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 has raised over €1 million for his charitable foundation by selling paintings made using his feet.
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