Before Michael Flatley exploded onto the world stage at Eurovision, he had over 18,000 people on their feet at the Hollywood Bowl whilst touring with the Chieftains.
This is important. Michael started dancing at the age of eleven. Eurovision didn't happen until he was in his mid-thirties. So, according to conventional wisdom, he'd started too late *and* was too old by the time he became an "overnight" success.
Good thing for literally the entire genre of professional Irish dancing that he didn't ever listen to the naysayers, because the genre owes its existence to the decades of hard work he put in when no one was watching. The gap of time between Michael becoming the first American world champion of Irish dancing and Michael blowing the roof off the building at Eurovision is nearly twenty *years.*
Ask yourself this: no matter how passionate you are about something you love, that you picked up as a child...could you keep doing it, working at it, refining it, innovating atop it, all in the face of decades of backbreaking hard work and poverty?
This is why, after the producers of Michael's first show unceremoniously removed him and went on with his choreography, he picked himself up off the canvas and literally bankrupted himself to prove a point as an artist: that *he* was the one who'd spent literally decades of his life coming up with the commercially-successful formula for taking an obscure cultural folk dance that no one had ever heard of and dressing it successfully for the world stage, and he'd worked too damn hard for that to be taken away from him.
When you picture commercially successful professional Irish dancing in your head, regardless of what name is on the billboard, you're probably picturing Michael Flatley's art form.
And the reason why Lord of the Dance has grossed over one-billion dollars and continues to be successful years after Michael retired from performing is because it's his *art form* that's on full display, without any compromises or reinterpretation by others. Going further afield, it is almost impossible to find any commercially-successful #IrishDance show that doesn't somehow trace some element of its lineage back to Michael. Today, Michael Flatley is effectively the Stan Lee of the Irish dance world.
We're bringing this up because we've gotten so used to the twenty-five years of Michael being an "overnight" success story that it's easy to forget the *thirty-five* years of backbreaking poverty and misery, toiling in obscurity, that it took to get there. This is someone who's had to *fight* his way up every step of the way. It's why the original Lord of the Dance video from 1996 is so intense: you're seeing a man backed into a corner, utterly crucified by the press, personal life in tatters, professional life on the line, and not even enough money in his pocket to buy a cup of coffee.
Hence Michael's famous quote: "We didn't come here to finish second."
Just some food for thought as 2021, the 25th anniversary year of Lord of the Dance, draws ever closer.