"Right now I'm focusing on the 28th of June," Michael Flatley said in 1996. "Everything after that is a bonus. The most important thing for me so far is the fact that I got up off the canvas and we have this created."
The 28th of June was 24 years ago -- today.
Let's rewind to that point in time. The producers of Michael's first show unceremoniously sacked him, carrying on with his choreography in the hands of others. The press at the time, some of whom were possibly fueled by ulterior motives, painted him as a raving egomaniac. No one expected his new show to succeed, and a lot of people were frankly dead-set against it. Michael literally bankrupted himself to prove that he was the true creative force in this new genre, that the art form people think of when they picture commercial Irish dancing is *his* invention, and that yes, a show which was 100% Irish dancing could not only be commercially successful, but in fact go on to sell out arenas and even stadiums.
Fast-forward 24 months. In less than 750 days, Lord of the Dance went from the mother of all long-shot underdogs to the biggest-selling dance show in history, outselling acts like U2 and The Rolling Stones, performing at the Oscars, selling out Wembley for *three weeks straight,* and making it absolutely crystal clear who the true creative force behind commercial Irish dancing was -- and is.
But one of the most important aspects of the story is often overlooked: Michael Flatley the *creator,* not just Michael Flatley the *performer.*
At the turn of the millennium, Lord of the Dance had up to four troupes performing, often without Michael in it -- because Lord was (and is) his *art form* on display, undiluted. And that art form, with its tremendous physical as well as artistic demands, requires the best Irish dancers in the world to interpret correctly, personalize, and perpetuate.
To help illustrate this point, and to celebrate the show's 24th Anniversary, we're showing you something you've never before seen: a snippet of the Feet of Flames Hyde Park dress rehearsal, featuring John Carey as the Lord of the Dance.
John, as you recall, was Michael's original understudy, and had to perform the lead role early in the show's history when Michael tore his calf muscle. He then went on to become the first person other than Michael to perform the Lord of the Dance on a long-term basis, leading the first Troupe 2 team on tour.
You've never seen this footage before. And we're sharing it now for a couple of specific reasons. First, because you've probably watched Feet of Flames a million times on video, you know all of Michael's movements by heart. To see it contrasted and reinterpreted here by John, in a way that is still aesthetically valid to Michael's art form, is extremely important: because all too often, if you look elsewhere in the commercial Irish dance world outside of LOTD, Michael's art form is simply not done correctly. They don't have that guidance from the top. As a result, you watch those performance videos, and while they may be technically flawless, something just seems to be...missing.
What's missing is *dash* -- the difference between performing a dance and *selling* a dance. And it's *dash* which Team Lord performers have. (It should come as no surprise that today the most commercially successful Irish dance choreographers almost universally come from the Flatley coaching tree, in the same way that the Bill Walsh coaching tree still ripples through American football almost forty years later.)
Which brings us to the second point. After Michael retired from the stage in 2016, we've often been asked if he's still involved in the show. And the answer is an emphatic yes. He's our commander-in-chief. What we hope this video from 1998 illustrates is that what you're used to seeing is the *performer,* and what we want you to see is the larger picture of the *creator.*
It's a point that needs to be driven home, because the groundwork was laid almost from the beginning; when Michael was doing press during the show's original run in 1996, interviewers would ask him when he thought he might retire, and he always used to say, "I am planning on retiring, but in this business you have to give twenty years' notice."
Michael retired in 2016. He actually did give twenty years' notice.
That ain't a coincidence. If there's one thing that should be abundantly clear by now: while the rest of us are thinking moves ahead, Michael Flatley is thinking *games* ahead.
Which brings us full-circle back to this video, and today's date. Lord of the Dance is now 24 years old. Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the show. We've spent the last year reawakening everyone, introducing you in truly unprecedented depth to the current troupe -- because they are the next generation, carrying the torch forward -- as well as reintroducing you to the heroes of Team Lord's incredible past, including brand-new content from the legendary OG Troupe.
*None* of this is a coincidence.
This is a movement. It's building. It's just now starting to take on a life of its own, just like it did last time. And you're invited to be a part of it.