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Follow Your Dream, Day #411: Bernadette Flynn

People of the internet: please join us in wishing the Queen of the Dance, Bernadette Flynn, a happy birthday today!

Bernadette Flynn is one of the most prominent names in the world of Irish dance. If you factor in all her performances over the decades -- live, TV, home video, and cinema -- it can be reasonably argued that she has been seen by more people than any other female Irish dancer in the world.

Bernadette also faced some unique challenges. Until Lord of the Dance, there was no such thing as an #IrishDance drama. She was cast as Saoirse, but what does it mean to be the "good girl" in an Irish dance show? Where are the performance boundaries on being too strong, too coquettish, too austere? There was no one to study; she had to define the role purely based on Michael Flatley's direction and her own intuition as a performer.

The second major challenge is that Bernadette had to hold her own onstage with Michael himself. Stolen Kiss is one of the most iconic numbers in the 24-year history of the show; the audience has to be swept up in the emotion of the number, and that requires Irish dancers who can act and convey some very powerful emotions onstage. That's hard enough under today's circumstances; doing it in 1996, with a massive microscope scrutinizing your every movement and gesture, in a billion-dollar dance show outselling U2 and The Rolling Stones, is an unbelievable level of pressure to perform under.

Even if you've only seen Bernadette in the commercial video releases, you can see her grow and evolve as a performer. Her 1996 Saoirse is not the same as her 2010 Saoirse, nor should it be; we grow and change as people, and for dancers, you can literally see the metamorphosis take place onstage.

Which brings us to the third challenge: Dance of Love.

In the original Lord of the Dance, only Morrighan has a number entirely to herself -- Gypsy -- with no backline or other leads present. In Feet of Flames, Saoirse gets her own number: Dance of Love. Notably, this is the only hardshoe female solo number in the entire show: a fusion of the grace from Celtic Dream and the fierce independence of Breakout.

And the first person to pioneer this number, setting the groove for all who followed? Bernadette Flynn.

Today, Bernadette and her husband, Lord of the Dance Damien O'Kane (whom you saw in Dance For Hope IV, performing the Feet of Flames solo), run the Flynn O'Kane Academy of Dance. And on this, her birthday, we've put together a short tribute video, splicing together three iconic performances of Dance of Love.

Please join us in wishing Bernadette a happy birthday today!


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