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Michael Flatley
Flatley alone cropped.jpg
Flatley performing in Feet of Flames,
in Taipei, 2009.
Born Michael Ryan Flatley
(1958-07-16) July 16, 1958 (age 57)
Nationality Irish-American
Education Brother Rice High School
Occupation Dancer, actor, occasional broadcaster, writer, flautist, choreographer
Years active 1991–2015
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)
Spouse(s) Beata Dziąba (m. 1986–1997; divorced)
Niamh O'Brien (m. 2006)
Children Michael St. James Flatley
(b. 2007)

Michael Ryan Flatley (born July 16, 1958) is an American stepdancer, choreographer and musician. He became internationally known for Irish dance shows Riverdance, Warlords, 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 US 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 age 11 and, in 1975, at age 17 was the first American to secure a World Irish Dance title at the World Irish Dance Championships, the Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne.[1] 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.[2] In his youth, Flatley also practiced amateur boxing; at age 17 he won the Chicago Golden Gloves Championship title.[3]

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.[4]


Early career[edit]

From 1978 to 1979 he toured with Green Fields of America, and in the 1980s he toured with The Chieftains.[5]

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.[6] 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, Warlords, Lord of the Dance, and beyond[edit]

Flatley created and choreographed the original Riverdance[7] and led the show to great success as the intermission act in the Eurovision Song Contest staged in Ireland on April 30, 1994.[7]

On the eve of the show's first full-length run in London, Flatley abruptly learned he had been replaced by the show producers due to conflicts over creative control.[7] Just eleven days later after the split he created Warlords followed by Lord of the Dance, which played mostly in arenas and stadiums instead of stage theaters.[7] 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 broke his own record for tapping speed in February 1998, by achieving 35 taps per second.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] The Variety Club of Ireland presented Flatley with their Entertainer of the Decade Award in 2008.[11]

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.[10]

In 2010, he returned to headline the Lord of the Dance show, with performances in arenas across England and Ireland, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

In April 2006, Flatley spoke about his discovery of a facial skin cancer.[19] 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.[20]

On 15 November 2006 Flatley was admitted to a private London hospital with a viral infection.[21] All the fall and winter tours of his latest production, Celtic Tiger, were cancelled. He was discharged two weeks later.[22]

Niamh Flatley gave birth to a son, Michael St. James Flatley, on 26 April 2007.[20]

Flatley's financial worth in 2006 was estimated at £350 million (US$530 million) in a Daily Mail article,[23] 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, near Fermoy, County Cork.[citation needed]

Flatley is an accomplished painter and will have his first show at the Hay Hill Gallery in London on 24 June 2015.

On 23 May 2015 Flatley was interviewed by Graham Norton for his BBC Radio 2 show and revealed that he had problems with the T1 and T5, the C3, the L5 bones 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.[24] He confirmed that he planned to retire at the end of 2015, with his last scheduled appearance in Austria on 5 December.[25] His last appearance in the UK was at Wembley Arena on 4 July 2015.[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, Family Guy, 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]. Retrieved on March 20, 2015.
  2. ^ Flatley, Michael; Thompson, Douglas (2006). Lord of the Dance: My Story. London: Pan Macmillan. pp. 1–8. ISBN 9780330445405. 
  3. ^ Flatley, Michael. "History: Former Chicago Golden Gloves Champions". Chicago Golden Gloves. Chicago Golden Gloves. Retrieved 14 June 2015. 
  4. ^ "BIOGRAPHY: Michael Flatley Lifetime". Retrieved 2015-09-02. 
  5. ^ Michael Flatley MIKEroCosm. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  6. ^ Retrieved on November 1, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Flatley, Michael (July 25, 2014). Michael Flatley - A Night to Remember. Interview with Christine Bleakley. ITV (TV network). ITV. London. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Awards and honors". 
  9. ^, Awards and Honors, accessed April 13, 2008
  10. ^ a b Michael Flatley Smashes Box Office Records in Taiwan. Business Wire (December 21, 2009). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  11. ^ About Michael :: Awards & Honors. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  12. ^ "Lord of the Dance returns to Ireland"
  13. ^ Cox, Gordon (December 8, 2010). "'Lord' dances to screens in 3D". Variety. 
  14. ^ 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."
  15. ^ On A Different Note
  16. ^ "TV | Michael Flatley: A Night to Remember". 2014-06-01. Retrieved 2015-09-02. 
  17. ^ "Michael Flatley shines at Irish Post Business Awards". Retrieved 2015-09-02. 
  18. ^ "Flatley wins $11m over rape claim". BBC News Online. December 8, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2007. 
  19. ^ "Flatley faced cancer scare after TV chat". 
  20. ^ a b Daily Mirror (October 15, 2006). "Flatley dances up aisle". The Daily Mirror. 
  21. ^ Castle, Tim (November 16, 2006). ""Celtic" dancer Flatley in hospital, cancels tour". Retrieved December 9, 2007. 
  22. ^ "News and Events". 
  23. ^ "Lord of the dance fights for his life"., which is part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard & Metro Media Group. November 16, 2006. 
  24. ^ 10:00 (2015-05-23). "BBC Radio 2 - Graham Norton, Live from Vienna for the Eurovision Song Contest". Retrieved 2015-09-02. 
  25. ^ by 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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