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Michael Flatley

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Michael Flatley is an American Irish dancer most known for his famous Irish dance shows Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Flatley is also seen by many as an inspirational role model, as he was faced with overwhelming obstacles on his journey to stardom. He supported his dance career himself by working in the construction industry. He is considered to be the world's first internationally recognized professional Irish dancer.

Early Life of Michael Flatley:

Flatley was born on July 16, 1958 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second of five children born to his Irish parents Michael and Eilish. Flatley's mother and maternal grandmother were both champion Irish dancers.

Flatley began learning dance steps at the early age of four, taught to him by his grandmother. She was very supportive of him and encouraged him to always follow his dreams. As a silent tribute to his grandmother, Flatley arranges an empty seat in the front row at every show.

Flatley's parents were insistent on instilling a sense of Irish heritage in their children, so they dragged him into an Irish dance class when he was 11 years old. Flatley was intrigued by the challenge of Irish dance and enrolled in formal dance classes at the age of 12 at the Dennehy School of Irish Dance. He won the All-Ireland World Championship for Irish dance and opened his own dance school upon graduating from high school.

Interestingly, Flatley also excelled at playing the traditional Irish flute. He won several titles as All-Ireland Flute Champion.

Dance Career of Michael Flatley:

Flatley toured with the world famous Irish band, Chieftains, during the 1980's. He had a deep desire to share his passion for his heritage. He successfully liberated the traditional aspects of Irish dancing, incorporating new rhythms and arm movements for his audiences. His audiences strongly approved his new energetic style.

Flatley created and performed Riverdance during the intermission act in the Eurovision Song Contest on April 30, 1994. The dance was so successful that he transformed the seven-minute performance into the full-length show. The premiere performance of Riverdance featured Irish Dancing Champion Jean Butler, Flatley, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the Celtic choral group Anúna with a score written by Bill Whelan. Flatley went on to create and produce Lord of the Dance after leaving Riverdance because of a disagreement.

Flatley produced Feet of Flames, another dance show, in 1998. In the year 2000, he remade the show, changing half of the original choreography. The new show toured in Europe and the United States. He also produced Celtic Tiger, an Irish dance show featuring a variety of dance styles. Celtic Tiger opened in 2005. The show featured Flatley's famous line of dancers in its finale.

Other Accomplishments of Michael Flatley:

Flatley released an autobiography in 2006 titled Lord of the Dance: My Story. He was presented with the Entertainer of the Decade Award in 2008 by the Variety Club of Ireland. Flatley also appeared as a guest dancer in the 7th season of Dancing with the Stars. He also hosted NBC's Superstars of Dance in 2009.

In 2009, Flatley returned to the stage for a varied version of Feet of Flames in Taiwan. He received several standing ovations. Tickets were in such high demand that the show had to be extended. Flatley returned to Lord of the Dance in 2010, headlining the show's tour.

Lord of the Dance 3D, the movie, debuted in theaters in 2011, with a DVD and Blu-Ray disc release following a few months later. Also in 2011, Flatley was inducted into Irish America magazine's Irish America Hall of Fame.

Fun Facts About Michael Flatley:

  • Flatley received the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship in 1988
  • Flatley set a Guinness Book world record for tapping speed at 28 taps per second
  • Flatley was named one of National Geographic Society's Living Treasures in 1991 for mastery of a traditional art form by a living person – the youngest person at that time ever to receive the honor
  • Flatley broke his own record for tapping speed in February 1998, by achieving 35 taps per second
  • Flatley received Guinness Book recognition in both 1999 and 2000 for being the highest paid dancer, earning $1,600,000 per week and for having the highest insurance policy placed on a dancer's legs at $40,000,000
  • Flatley married Polish make-up artist Beata Dziąba in 1986. The couple divorced in 1997
  • Flatley married dancer Niamh O’Brien in 2006
  • Flatley's only child, Michael St. James Flatley, was born in 2007
  • Flatley's fortune is estimated at $650 million as of 2010
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