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Michael Flatley
Flatley alone cropped.jpg
Flatley performing in Feet of Flames,
in Taipei, 2006.
Born Michael Ryan Flatley
(1958-07-16) July 16, 1958 (age 59)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Nationality American, Irish
Education Brother Rice High School
Occupation Dancer, actor, occasional broadcaster, writer, flautist, choreographer
Years active 1969–2015
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)
  • Beata Dziąba
    (m. 1986; div. 1997)
  • Niamh O'Brien
    (m. 2006)
Children 1

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.

Early life[edit]

Flatley is a native of the South Side of Chicago. He is of Irish background, being born to Irish parents Michael and Eilish. His parents were both Irish-born, but emigrated to the US several years before Michael's birth.[1] Michael is the second of five children.[1] He has three sisters, Anne-Marie, Eliza and Thomasina, as well as a brother Patrick.[1]

He began dancing lessons at age 11, and at age 17 was the first American to secure a World Irish Dance title at Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne (the Irish Dancing World Championships).[2] He is also an accomplished flautist, having won twice in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Concert Flute competitions from 1975-1976 and later in his career having released two albums.[3] In his youth, Flatley also practiced amateur boxing; at age 17 after winning a High School Intramural bout he competed in the Chicago Golden Gloves tournament in the 126 lb. novice division, losing to Kenneth Reed on February 25.[4]

Flatley was taught dance by Dennis Dennehy at the Dennehy School of Irish Dance in Chicago, then went on to produce his own show.[5] After graduating from Brother Rice High School, on Chicago's Southwest Side, he opened a dance school, but later closed it down to focus on performing.[6]


Early career[edit]

From 1978 to 1979 he toured with Green Fields of America, and in the 1980s he toured with The Chieftains.[7]


According to Flatley,[8] he created and choreographed the original Riverdance and led the show to great success as the intermission act in the Eurovision Song Contest staged in Ireland on April 30, 1994.[9][10] The performance in the Eurovision Song Contest was produced by Moya Doherty.[10] The finale piece was co-choreographed by dance partner Jean Butler with Flatley himself. Butler was his partner in a famous video clip.[10] The response was so explosive that it was extended into a full show, starring Butler and Flatley.

The show toured throughout 1995. Later, on the eve of the show's first full-length London run, Flatley learned he had been replaced by the show producers, due to conflicts over creative control. He and the producers had been in negotiations, but the producers refused his terms, and so he refused to perform. According to the producers, Flatley was then replaced by Colin Dunne at the last minute, in October 1995. Dunne was already employed by the producers for other part of the show. Butler left the show in 1997, although it continued its success and inspirations. Despite this, Flatley is still credited as original choreographer in all Riverdance shows.[citation needed]

Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames[edit]

Shortly after the Riverdance split, Flatley created Lord of the Dance, which played mostly in arenas and stadiums instead of traditional theaters.[8] The show premiered in the 3Arena of Dublin (then named as "The Point") then it made its U.K. premiere in London at the Coliseum Theatre.

An expanded version of the show called Feet of Flames premiered in 1998, with a performance at the Route of Kings section of London's Hyde Park.[11] The 1998 show featured six new numbers; one of which is Flatley's solo, a tall stage with multi-level tiers, and a live band. Later in 1999, he produced another version of that show with 50% differences from the 1998 show. Titled Feet of Flames: The Victory Tour, he toured Europe in 2000 and the U.S. in 2001. He formed another group after that, retiring in 2016.[12] He held a world record of the number of taps per second.

Celtic Tiger[edit]

Flatley's Irish dance show Celtic Tiger opened in July 2005.[13] 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.[14] The show also includes popular elements from his previous shows, such as Flatley's flute solos and the line of dancers in the finale.[14]

In 2006, Flatley released his own autobiographical book titled Lord of the Dance: My Story.[13] 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.[15] In 2008, he was conferred with the Freedom of the Borough of Sligo at a ceremony in Sligo City Hall.[16] The Variety Club of Ireland presented Flatley with their Entertainer of the Decade Award in 2008.[17]

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.[18][19] Also in 2008, he performed the solo "Capone" from Celtic Tiger on the show.[18] Flatley was also the host of the 2009 NBC series Superstars of Dance.[20]

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.[21] His return was met with multiple standing ovations and the run of shows had to be extended to meet the demand for tickets.[16]

In 2010, he returned to headline the Lord of the Dance show, with performances in arenas across England and Ireland, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.[22] Lord of the Dance 3D, the film of the return tour, debuted in theaters worldwide in 2011.[23] 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.[24] 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 on Blu-ray.[23]

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.[25] The ceremony included a speech and an impromptu performance of one of his father's favorite tunes.[25] 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.[26]

In 2011, he was inducted into Irish America magazine's Irish America Hall of Fame.[27]

Flatley released a flute album titled On A Different Note in 2011.[28] The 25 tracks include airs and tunes he has played in his shows, other traditional tunes, and new compositions.[29]

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.[30] The show aired on June 1, 2014 and was presented by Christine Bleakley.[31]

The Irish Post Awards[edit]

On October 24, 2013, Flatley attended The Irish Post Awards on Park Lane where he received the Lifetime Achievement Award to recognise the impact of his career as a global dance superstar and entrepreneur.[32]

Other awards and achievements[edit]

Flatley is a recipient of a 1988 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.[33]

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.[34] 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.[35][34]

In 2017 Flatley performed at the inauguration of Donald Trump.[36]

Personal life[edit]

In 2003, an allegation was made by real estate agent Tyna Marie Robertson 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 to Flatley for defamation and extortion.[37]

In April 2006, Flatley spoke about his discovery of a facial skin cancer.[38]

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.[39] 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.[40]

On November 15, 2006, Flatley was admitted to a private London hospital with a viral infection.[41] All the fall and winter tours of his latest production, Celtic Tiger, were cancelled. He was discharged two weeks later.[42]

He and his wife, Niamh Flatley have a son, Michael St. James, born in 2007.[40]

On May 23, 2015, Flatley was interviewed by Graham Norton for his BBC Radio 2 show and revealed that he had problems with various bones, including the T1 and T5, the C3, the L5 vertebrae and the Sacroiliac joint in his spine, a damaged left knee, a torn right calf muscle, two ruptured Achilles tendons, a fractured rib, and a broken bone in his foot.[43] He confirmed that he planned to retire at the end of 2015, with his last scheduled appearance in Austria on December 5.[44]


  1. ^ a b c Slater, Sarah. "Michael Flatley left devastated after death of his beloved father". The Mirror. Retrieved 19 July 2017. 
  2. ^ [1]. Retrieved on March 20, 2015.
  3. ^ Flatley, Michael; Thompson, Douglas (2006). Lord of the Dance: My Story. London: Pan Macmillan. pp. 1–8. ISBN 9780330445405. 
  4. ^ "1975 Sectional Results". BoxRec. Retrieved 1 December 2016. 
  5. ^ Giangrasse Kate, Joan. "Dennis G. Dennehy, 1939-201". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 19 July 2017. 
  6. ^ "BIOGRAPHY: Michael Flatley Lifetime". Archived from the original on September 19, 2015. Retrieved September 2, 2015. 
  7. ^ Michael Flatley MIKEroCosm Archived November 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Flatley, Michael (July 25, 2014). "Michael Flatley - A Night to Remember". ITV (TV network) (Interview). Interview with Christine Bleakley. London: ITV. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  9. ^ Roberts, Sophie. "Political moves Who is Michael Flatley? Irish dance legend appearing at Donald Trump inauguration ball – all you need to know". The Sun. Retrieved 26 July 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c Warren, Jane. "What became of the Riverdance Queen? Jean Butler explains why she left the limelight". The Express. Retrieved 26 July 2017. 
  11. ^ "Michael Flatley". Britannica. Retrieved 27 July 2017. 
  12. ^ "Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley in his farewell performance (VIDEO)". The Irish Central. Retrieved 27 July 2017. 
  13. ^ a b "Michael Flatley". Britannica. Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  14. ^ a b Fricker, Karen. "Review: 'Celtic Tiger'". Variety. Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  15. ^ Kelleher, Olivia. "Freedom of Cork city conferred on Michael Flatley". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  16. ^ a b Michael Flatley Smashes Box Office Records in Taiwan. Business Wire (December 21, 2009). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  17. ^ "Variety Club puts best foot forward with Flatley gong". Independent Woman Celeb News. Retrieved 27 September 2017. 
  18. ^ a b "Dancing with the Stars: Round 9 Results". IMDB. Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  19. ^ "Former 'Riverdance' star Michael Flatley to perform on 'Dancing With the Stars'". The Orange County Register. Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  20. ^ "Superstars of Dance". TV Series Finale. Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  21. ^ "Michael Flatley". Britannica. Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  22. ^ ""Lord of the Dance returns to Ireland"". [permanent dead link]
  23. ^ a b "Lord of the Dance in 3D". IMDB. Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  24. ^ Cox, Gordon (December 8, 2010). "'Lord' dances to screens in 3D". Variety. 
  25. ^ a b "Garden of Music opened by Flatley". The Sligo Champion. Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  26. ^ "Stock Photo - Michael Flatley at JP McManus Pro-Am Golf Tournament, Adare Manor Hotel, Ireland 5th & 6th July 2010". Alamy. Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  27. ^ 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."
  28. ^ Harty, Patricia. "What Are You Like? Michael Flatley: The Last Dance". Irish America. Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  29. ^ "On a Different Note" – via Amazon. 
  30. ^ "Michael Flatley: A Night To Remember". Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  31. ^ "TV | Michael Flatley: A Night to Remember". 2014-06-01. Retrieved 2015-09-02. 
  32. ^ "Michael Flatley shines at Irish Post Business Awards". Retrieved 2015-09-02. 
  33. ^ "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 1988". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved 22 January 2018. 
  34. ^ a b Watson and Halus, William E and Eugene J. (2015). Irish Americans: The History and Culture of a People. California, USA: ABC- CLIO. p. 306. 
  35. ^ Downes, John. "Michael Flatley and Charlie Bird among those honoured by UCD". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  36. ^ Holpuch, Amanda (19 January 2017). "'Lord of the Dance' Michael Flatley to perform at Trump inauguration ball". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2017. 
  37. ^ "Flatley wins $11m over rape claim". BBC News Online. December 8, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2007. 
  38. ^ "Flatley faced cancer scare after TV chat". 
  39. ^ "Niamh O'Brien". IMDB. Retrieved 20 July 2017. 
  40. ^ a b Daily Mirror (October 15, 2006). "Flatley dances up aisle". The Daily Mirror. Archived from the original on October 19, 2006. 
  41. ^ Castle, Tim (November 16, 2006). ""Celtic" dancer Flatley in hospital, cancels tour". Retrieved December 9, 2007. 
  42. ^ "News and Events". Archived from the original on September 15, 2007. 
  43. ^ "BBC Radio 2 - Graham Norton, Live from Vienna for the Eurovision Song Contest". 2015-05-23. Retrieved 2015-09-02. 
  44. ^ Caroline O’Doherty (2015-03-30). "Lord of the dance Michael Flatley announces his retirement". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 2015-09-02. 

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