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Follow Your Dream, Day #361: Versatility

The first rule of imagination: you can always go further.

In 1993, at the Mayo 5000, Ireland got its first taste of Michael Flatley's wild and exciting art form atop Irish dancing. Flamboyant, powerful, and full of swagger, it was to traditional Irish dancing what the Battlestar Galactica would be to a wooden sailing vessel. Go on YouTube and watch those videos of the Mayo 5000; this was a year before Eurovision, and here's Michael, shirtless, wearing a fedora, doing several minutes of stuff no one else in that room could do, let alone have the courage to dare to invent.

Michael's art form had been honed by years of touring with the Chieftains at that point; remember, in 1993, he was the only professional Irish dancer in the world. Eurovision, a year later, didn't happen in a vacuum.

But an artist is always evolving. Just as competitive Irish dancing has evolved and accelerated in the decades since then, so too has Michael as a performer and choreographer. Lord of the Dance, in 1996, was a quantum leap beyond Michael's first show a year prior. And in 2005, a dozen years after the Mayo 5000, we got another quantum leap forward with Celtic Tiger.

Honestly, who would've thought to apply Irish dancing to a 1920's Chicago mobster theme? It's easy to riff on what someone else comes up with first (and there's no shortage of that in the Irish dance world), but it's very, very rare to come up with something truly unique and new. What you see in Celtic Tiger is the evolution of Michael's art form way beyond what anyone had anticipated.

What it demonstrates is the tremendous versatility of Irish dancing, especially when fused with Michael's art form atop it. A rising tide lifts all boats, and the simple truth is this: by inventing a new genre of entertainment -- the professional Irish dance show -- atop that unique art form built upon Irish dancing as its foundation, Michael Flatley in turn set Irish dancing free. As a result, the last quarter-century has seen extraordinary explosions in creativity and experimentation, with no sign of slowing down.

Who knows what Michael's art form might show up in next, or how it might evolve further? The one thing we *can* guarantee you is this: you'll know about it via Michael and Lord of the Dance before anywhere else.


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