The Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley gave his final performance in Las Vegas on St. Patrick’s Day in 2016, celebrating 22 years as the world’s most famous Irish dancer. Flatley and the “Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games” crew had a “nice party” at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace following the show as the cast and crew were also celebrating 20 years of the “Lord of the Dance,” Flatley’s own creation. First performed in 1996, the show has traveled the world and earned him the title of the champion of Irish dance.
The day before his final performance, Flatley received an Arts and Humanities Award from the American Ireland Fund in Washington DC. He told the crowds “As I finish in Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas I can honestly say, hand on heart in front of God, that I have given every last drop of what I have to my art and to Ireland."
The show, “The Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games,” had a successful run in London and New York and continued to run in Vegas, just without Flatley on stage. Throughout the tour, the show sold 309,492 tickets, over 161 shows in 59 cities across the world. According to Pollstar, each show grossed an average of $297,916. And that’s just one year. Flatley himself has accrued a fortune of $280.3 million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. A truly breakthrough career for a dancer from Chicago.
The Lord of the Dance said finishing his on-stage dance career in Las Vegas felt right. He told the Las Vegas Review Journal that promoters gave him choices about where to end his career. He said, “When they mentioned Las Vegas and Caesars Palace, I just decided that’s the right place. I love Vegas; I’ve always loved Vegas. My wife and I just love it. I go to all the fights there. I have an awful lot of friends there, and some of the best restaurants in America are there.”
He also pointed out the symmetry of performing his last dance in Vegas, as the original “Lord of the Dance” show sold out at the MGM Grand Garden on the July 4 weekend of 1997. Amazingly, Flatley had never before returned.
Having created an Irish dance empire Flatley’s return to Vegas seemed fitting.
“My whole dream was to create a big show that could compete in the big arenas like all the rock bands,” Flatley said. “We’ve done that. Keep dancers employed so they can make a living doing what they love to do. We’ve done that for 20 years. We’ve changed the face of this type of dance with this show. Mission accomplished.
“It’s perfect timing now for me to step aside and let the young blood take over.”
When offered a Peyton Manning analogy, Flatley agreed it was a good one (even though the interview took place before the veteran quarterback formalized his anticipated retirement).
“I don’t want to be remembered for being less than this now,” Flatley says. “I’m so fit, I’m so ready, I feel as if I’m dancing those two numbers better than I ever have … So it’s a perfect time for me to stand down. It’s just perfect timing.”
The 57-year-old, who has recently turned his hand (or rather feet) to painting and music, decided it’s time to perform his swan song. His famous feet were once insured for over $57.6 million and it’s no wonder after he broke his own record by tap-dancing more than 35 times per second but his strenuous career has taken its toll.
“I am always in pain. Agony. Every morning my poor wife [Niamh] has to witness me spending the first few minutes of the day trying to straighten my back and push my legs to start working,” he told the Daily Mail last year.
He continued, “I’ve wrecked my body with dance. I can’t say I wasn’t warned and I can’t say I haven’t loved every single minute of putting myself into this state.
“But physically I’m a mess. I have a recurring broken bone in my right foot which just spontaneously breaks itself.
"My hamstrings are ruined, my groin is gone and I’ve done irreparable damage to two points of my spine – T1 and T6."
His amazing dance career has pushed his body to the limit. He admitted, “There is blood and sweat on the inside of every single one of my dance shoes.
“But now my lower back is in a dreadful state. I have no one to blame but myself.
“I remember touring in Germany and needing to have days of cortisone injections because the pain was so bad.
“The doctor told me he wouldn’t do any more, that the base of my spine would just fall apart, so I did what I thought any self-respecting dancer should do: I got another doctor; I got more injections.
“But it comes to a point where you just can’t do it anymore.”
The Lord of the Dance said, “It is the end.‘I’m too long in the tooth. I feel ready to go. I feel happy to go, happy to let some other really talented, hard-working guys take my place. ["Lord Of The Dance" cast members] James Keegan, James Breen, Matt Smith and Lewis Childs are all great, great dancers who deserve to take over from me.”
He told the Review Journal, “I’ve got some terrific talent coming up now.
“I’m so happy with the young lads that are taking over the lead roles … they’re just remarkable. Every one of them. One is as good as the other one. They’re just dynamite. The audiences are going crazy for them; the women love them.”
Flatley’s career has certainly changed the landscape of the world of Irish dance. In an article in the Las Vegas magazine, he was asked what his legacy will be. He said, “We’ve taken this form of dance to the world stage. Over the years, I’ve changed the form of Irish dance by using the upper body, using the arms, facial expressions. I’ve accelerated the footwork, I’ve syncopated all the rhythm patterns, and we began to tell stories.
“We’ve sold out every big arena in every major city in every country in the world, and that’s a lot to be proud of. My personal point of view is my success has been in the fact that I’ve been able to bring so many young stars into the spotlight. For 20 years, I’ve kept thousands of young dancers working and traveling the world doing what they’ve done.
“That’s a dream come true for me, giving these young people a chance to earn money doing what they dream of.”