The Journey to Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance

Irish dancer Michael Flatley once said, "Everyone in the world will tell you, 'No, it can't be done.' Every time I hear that, I know I'm close to success." This philosophy was a main driving factor in the journey to Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance, which Flatley began developing in 1995 following his departure from Riverdance.

Flatley's expedition toward stardom began far from the stage. Born July 16, 1958, to parents who emigrated from Ireland in 1947, Flatley grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and helped his family with its successful construction business. Michael credits this experience and his father for instilling in him the tireless work ethic and remarkable drive that empowered him in his quest to transform dreams into reality. As a child, Michael was dubbed a “dreamer,” not an enviable title in a working-class Chicago household. As an adult, the lessons on hard work learned in that household helped the dreamer make his dreams real.

Although Flatley was born and raised in the United States, he often visited family abroad in Ireland while growing up. He fell in love with Irish dancing, encouraged by his mother and maternal grandmother, who were both Irish dance champions. Through his mother, Michael learned his first steps at the age of four. Michael continues to honor his late grandmother at every Lord of the Dance show, leaving an empty front-row seat as a silent tribute to the woman who paved the way for his success. "The empty seat is a sign of my respect to her, for I believe she is still watching me," says Flatley.

Michael's Irish dancing education continued when he was "dragged by the ears" to Irish dance class at age 11. He was sent home for being too old, but Michael persisted (and not just because "there were lots of pretty girls in the class"). His embraced the challenge of Irish dance and at age 17 years became the first American to bring the title of All-World Irish Dancing Champion to the United States. During this time, Michael studied traditional Irish flute and won his first of several titles as All-Ireland Flute Champion.

After graduating high school, Flatley opened an Irish dance school but quickly felt unfulfilled as his ultimate desire was to perform. He soon closed the school and began to build an unprecedented career as the world's first internationally recognized professional Irish dancer. From his early work in the 1980s with the world-famous traditional Irish band, The Chieftains, to his game-changing performance with Riverdance at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, Flatley was driving global excitement for Irish dance.

Flatley thought beyond the lines of dancers that dominated traditional Irish dance. Emphasizing romance, sensuality and passion as well as the gravity-defying athleticism of Irish dancing, he created a new, dramatic, storytelling style of Irish dance that elevated it beyond tradition and into the hearts of admiring new fans.

After providing choreography for Riverdance, Flatley came fully into his own with Lord of the Dance, the first Irish dance show based entirely on Flatley’s vision. After its premiere at the Point Theatre in Dublin, audiences and critics couldn't get enough, calling it "powerful," fantastic," "electrifying," "spellbinding" and "an awesome sight."

An instant success, Lord of the Dance played sold-out venues, received standing ovations and set records all across the globe. The latest version of the show, Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, is selling out theatres around the world thanks to Flatley's continued leadership and the amazing Lord of the Dance cast, crew, choreographers and composers. As the 25th anniversary of Lord of the Dance approaches, Flatley is hard at work preparing a celebration worthy of one of the world’s great entertainment experiences.

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