Michael Flatley

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Born July 16, 1958 in Chicago USA, Michael Flatley is the second of five children, his parents emigrated from Ireland in 1947 and settled in Chicago. His mother and his maternal grandmother, Hannah Ryan, were both champion Irish dancers. Ryan taught Michael his first few steps at the age of four and always encouraged him to follow his heart and his dreams. Michael’s parents were committed to retaining their children’s Irish heritage, so at age 11 Michael was sent to Irish dance class. Surpassing his classmates in winning competitions, 17-year-old Michael became the first American to bring the title of All-World Irish Dancing Champion to the US. At the same time Michael studied traditional Irish flute and won the first of several titles as All-Ireland Flute Champion.He received the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship in 1988 and in May 1989 Flatley set a Guinness Book world record for tapping speed at 28 taps per second. He 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 created and choreographed the original Riverdance and led the show to great success as the intermission act in the Eurovision Song Contest on 30th April, 1994. He 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 theatres. He also put together a dance production called Feet of Flames in 1998.

Flatley broke his own record for tapping speed in February 1998, by achieving 35 taps per second. He 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.

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, he received an honorary doctorate degree from University College Dublin, and that same year received the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honour in New York.

Flately’s latest Irish dance show, Celtic Tiger 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.
In 2006, Flatley released his own autobiographical book titled Lord of the Dance: My Story. At the 10th Anniversary of Lord of the Dance in June 2006, Flatley was accompanied by dancer Niamh O’Brien, who danced with him in Celtic Tiger. The two shortly thereafter announced that they were dating, and were married on 14th October, 2006.

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. He returned to headline the Lord of the Dance show in 2010 with the 3D film of the return tour debuting worldwide in 2011.


 Lord of Dance – Michael Flatley