Michael Flatley may be retired, but he’s still hands on for his dance show, writes Marjorie Brennan
THIS summer marks an Irish homecoming for the dance-show phenomenon, Lord Of The Dance. Dancing legend and honorary Corkman, Michael Flatley, who starred in the Irish-dancing extravaganza until recently, will see his creation take to the stage for the first time in his adopted home, as part of Live at the Marquee.
It’s 20 years since the original version of the show — choreographed and produced by Flatley — premiered in Dublin. Since then, it has been all over the world and has taken in millions at the box office. Flatley’s last performance in the show was in Las Vegas, on St Patrick’s Day, but the Lord of the Dance juggernaut keeps on moving around the globe. While the dancers have enough medals and trophies to fill Flatley’s Fermoy mansion, their roles in the show are the ultimate prize.
Katrina O’Donnell, from Achill Island, Co Mayo, has been dancing since she was three and has placed in the top three in the World Irish Dancing Championships.
“My dance teacher took us to see Lord of the Dance and I was in awe of it. From then on, I wanted to be in it and, all these years later, it came true. I’m very grateful for that opportunity.”
Dancing with Flatley was like nothing she had ever experienced before, the 29-year-old says. “It’s just so hard to explain what it’s like, to be out there on stage with him — he is my idol. It was really hard to believe, the ultimate — I’ve never witnessed such a reaction before. It’s bizarre to think that he’s my boss.”
O’Donnell says Flatley’s farewell to the stage was an “emotional” one.
“It was quite sad. He was so emotional, he wanted to make it special.”
Sharing the stage with Flatley, for his final performances in Lord of the Dance, at the 3Arena, in Dublin, and in Las Vegas, was Nikita Cassidy, from Ahascragh, Co Galway. Cassidy, 25, who has also been in the top-three in the world, has been in the show since she was 16.
“I danced with Michael in his last ever Irish performance, last March, in the 3Arena. To go there, to the 3 Arena, where the show opened —when it was the Point — all these years ago, and then to go back was really emotional, particularly having worked with him for eight years.
“And, this year, we did the North American tour and finished in Las Vegas, where he did his last show ever. We’d grown up with Michael, watching him, and then to have worked with him, and to finally see him give his final performance was amazing.
“He gave a speech, beforehand, and he was really emotional; it had been his life. We were all hysterical. We were so used to having him around, to work with.”
There are demands to such a glamorous role, however: Dancing takes a physical toll and Cassidy says taking care of her health and fitness is a priority.
“You’re in the spotlight and you need to live up to the role you’re playing. We work hard, and, obviously you have to be healthy and fit, but, once you look after that, the dancing comes.”
He may not be centre stage any more, but Flatley remains very much involved in the show and still takes part in rehearsals. Does Cassidy think Flatley will really never dance in the show again? It seems hard to believe the ultimate showman will be able to resist the lure of the stage.
“I don’t know,” she laughs. “He still puts his dancing shoes on every day, mind you.”
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