Michael Flatley, the creator, director and producer of the show and the man who made Irish dancing a worldwide phenomenon. Flatley, who continues to hold the Guinness Book world record of 35 taps per second. Image Credit: Supplied

Tapping its way to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec), Lord of the Dance is sure going to be a hit with audiences. In fact, it already is as two extra performances were added to meet overwhelming demand.

tabloid! spoke to Michael Flatley, the creator, director and producer of the show and the man who made Irish dancing a worldwide phenomenon. Flatley, who continues to hold the Guinness Book world record of 35 taps per second, spoke about the upcoming show, his mysterious illness and what the future holds for him.

"It really thrills me that we're getting the opportunity to perform again in front of such an appreciative audience. It never ceases to amaze me how universal our show is — from Dublin to Taipei, the audiences are on their feet, cheering and clapping. This first time in Abu Dhabi will be remarkable. I won't be dancing this time around, but our lead dancer, Damien, is just phenomenal," he said.

This is not the first time that Lord of the Dance dances its way into the Middle East. In 2002, the troupe performed several shows during the Beiteddine Festival in Lebanon and during the Dubai Shopping Festival in 2004. Also, after completing their shows in Abu Dhabi, Lord of the Dance will be heading to Bahrain.


"What you can expect is an absolutely wonderful night of entertainment. Our troupe is very excited to be back in the region again and is looking forward to giving 100 per cent.

"These young people really are cultural ambassadors and are delighted to bring a little bit of Ireland to the other side of the world. Our show is tweaked constantly, be it dance moves, costumes or music. We keep it fresh for both the dancers and the audience," Flatley said.

And like every performer, there are some rituals the accomplished artist goes through prior to every show — some to make sure that his £25 million (Dh136 million) insured legs are ready.

"Backstage, before every show, I have to warm up for about an hour to get the energy levels right so that I'm ready to explode on to the stage. That's not for luck, it's just essential," Flatley said.

Both his grandmother and mother, each a professional dancer in her own right, are credited for their continuous support of Flatley's interest in dancing even as he was growing up with his three sisters and brother in Chicago. Still, Flatley first joined his father's construction business and held down several jobs before finding success.

"[Another] ritual is that I keep a seat for my grandmother at every performance. Sadly she's no longer with us, but I was very close to her and she's the person who first taught me to dance," he said.

Hidden enthusiasm

Surprisingly though, when asked what would be his ideal day, the internationally-renowned performer revealed a hidden enthusiasm for a sport that is the farthest thing away from his high-energy lifestyle.

"Having taken up golf in the last few years, I've become quite addicted to it. It would be a dream to get a four ball together and shoot a round of golf at Augusta, Georgia, with Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw and Arnold Palmer. These guys are lions of the game, both on the course and off."

That fantasy could have become a reality when in June 2001 Flatley announced his retirement from dancing. But he soon found himself immersed in his new role as creative director, which included searching out ideas for new shows, among other duties. "I'm always working on new projects. I get inspired by everyday events in the world, by our history, by something I see while out walking. Like a writer, I keep a pen and pad with me and jot down ideas as they come to me."


However, Flatley's mood became thoughtful when the subject of his illness came up. The dancer had faced the greatest challenge of his life after contracting a mystery virus in 2006 that left him bed-ridden for many weeks. But he was determined to beat it, especially when told by doctors that there was a chance he would never be able to dance again.

"It is a cliché — but one worth remembering — that, without your health, you have nothing. When I was ill, it was a very worrying time for me and for my family and I am so thankful that it is all behind me. I haven't felt so good in years and feel better now than I did when I was in my 30s," he said.

"I'm one of those people who like to give their all, but sometimes you have to ease up a bit. I suppose that's the advice I would give — slow down and enjoy the here and now," Flatley added.

Once he was given a clean bill of health, the soon to be 51-year-old (his birthday is on July 16) began dreaming again of dancing on stage. That became a reality when he announced his return as Lord of the Dance in 2009.

"It feels absolutely wonderful [to be back on stage]. I was in the audience at a performance of Lord of the Dance a while back and I found it hard not to jump on stage.

At that point, my wife Niamh [they got married in 2003] nudged me and said I should give it a shot. As a dancer herself [she performed in many of his shows] she knows how important it is to me and how much I enjoy it. And of course, it means now I have the opportunity to dance in front of our three-year-old son, Michael," he said fondly.

But despite all the ups and downs that he has experienced so far, Flatley remains as deeply passionate and energetic as always about dancing and his shows.

"2010 has been a fantastic year so far and is shaping up to be really great so I'm truly blessed. I can't wait to get back out in front of live audiences — it's thrilling for me.

"I have the energy and commitment to keep going, so roll on 2011!" he added, laughing.

Did you know?

Lord of the Dance was performed within eight weeks of its inception and has been seen by a worldwide audience of more than 60 million people and continues to tour continuously on two continents. It even had a seven-year residency in Las Vegas, where more than two million people watched the show.

Lord of the Dance

Based on Irish folklore, this is a classic tale of good versus evil. The Little Spirit travels through time to help the Lord of the Dance protect his people from the challenge of Don Dorcha, the Dark Lord. As this evil dark power challenges the hero, the incredible adventure continues, drawing the audience into a mythical universe of love, danger and desire.

Don't Miss it

What: Lord of the Dance

When: June 23-26

Where: Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre

Tickets: Prices start from Dh295. Tickets can be purchased from boxofficeme.com and Virgin Megastores.