seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Irish Dancer & Choreographer Michael Ryan Flatley

michael-flatleyMichael Ryan Flatley, Irish American dancer, choreographer, and musician, is born to Irish parents in Chicago, Illinois on July 16, 1958. He becomes internationally known for Irish dance shows Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames, and Celtic Tiger.

Flatley begins dancing lessons at age 11 and, at age 17, is the first American to secure a World Irish Dance title at the World Irish Dance Championships, the Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne. He is also an accomplished flautist, having won twice in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Concert Flute competitions from 1975-1976.

Flatley is taught dance by Dennis Dennehy at the Dennehy School of Irish Dance in Chicago. After graduating from Brother Rice High School, on Chicago’s Southwest Side, he opens a dance school but later closes it to focus on performing.

In 1978 and 1979 Flatley tours with Green Fields of America and then with The Chieftains in the 1980s. In May 1989, Flatley sets a Guinness Book world record for tapping speed at 28 taps per second, and subsequently breaks his own record in 1998 with 35 taps per second.

Flatley creates and choreographs the original Riverdance and leads the show to great success as the intermission act in the Eurovision Song Contest staged in Ireland on April 30, 1994. Flatley abruptly leaves the show over creative control disputes in October 1995.

Shortly after the Riverdance split, Flatley creates Lord of the Dance, which plays mostly in arenas and stadiums instead of stage theaters. He also puts together a dance production called Feet of Flames in 1998. Flately’s Irish dance show Celtic Tiger opens in July 2005. The show explores the history of the Irish people and Irish emigration to the United States, fusing a wide range of dance styles, including jazz.

Flatley returns to the stage in 2009 for a limited run of the “Hyde Park” version of Feet of Flames in Taiwan. His return is met with multiple standing ovations and the run of shows has to be extended to meet the demand for tickets.

Flatley premiers Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games at the celebrated Palladium Theatre on London’s West End in 2014 and moves to the Dominion Theatre in 2015 where he makes his final appearance on the West End stage before revisiting another sold out Wembley Arena for his final performance in the United Kingdom.

Flatley embarks on his final tour on February 19, 2016 and performs on stage for the last time at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, NV, on March 17, 2016. He continues as the show’s creator, producer, and choreographer.


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“Riverdance” Performed for the First Time

riverdance-1994Riverdance, a theatrical show consisting of traditional Irish music and dance and featuring Irish dancing champions Jean Butler and Michael Flatley and a score composed by Limerick native Bill Whelan, is performed for the first time on April 30, 1994, as an interval performance act during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest at the Point Theatre in Dublin.

Riverdance is rooted in a three-part suite of baroque-influenced traditional music called Timedance composed, recorded, and performed for the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest, which is hosted by Ireland. At the time, Bill Whelan and Dónal Lunny compose the music, augmenting the Irish folk band Planxty with a rock rhythm section of electric bass and drums and a four-piece horn section. The piece is performed, with accompanying ballet dancers, during the interval of the contest, and later released as a Planxty single. Whelan has previously produced EastWind, an album by Planxty member Andy Irvine with Davy Spillane whose cross between Irish and Southeastern European folk music proves an influence on Riverdance. Thirteen years later, Bill Whelan is invited to do the intermission piece for another Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, and composes Riverdance. In the book The Humours of Planxty by Leagues O’Toole, Whelan says, “It was no mistake of mine to call it Riverdance because it connected absolutely to Timedance.”

The 1994 performance earns a standing ovation from the packed theatre of 3,000 people. As a result of this success, Riverdance is invited to perform at the prestigious Royal Variety Performance at Dominion Theatre, London, in the presence of Prince Charles on November 28, 1994.

At Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest and Eurovision Song Contest’s Greatest Hits events, the seven-minute performance is named as one of the most popular interval acts in the history of the contest.

An audio recording of Riverdance enters the Irish Singles Chart at number one on May 5, 1994, and remains there throughout the summer, eventually totalling a record eighteen weeks at #1. In response to the Rwandan genocide of May/June 1994, a video of the Eurovision interval performance is released by the Irish broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann under the title Riverdance for Rwanda with all proceeds going to the Rwanda Appeal Disasters Joint Appeal Committee.

The success of the Eurovision performance leads husband and wife production team John McColgan and Moya Doherty to consider how to develop the piece. They decide to produce and direct a stage show, expanding the Eurovision piece and Bill Whelan’s composition. In November 1994, tickets are sold in Dublin for the first full-length performance of Riverdance, which opens at the Point Theatre on February 9, 1995. The show runs for five weeks and is a sell out with over 120,000 tickets sold. It stars the original lead dancers from the Eurovision performance as well as many from the dance troupe featured in the Eurovision performance.

Riverdance continues to be performed all over the world, in a diminished format and in smaller venues. Current productions are geared towards smaller theatres, whereas past productions have been performed in large theatres and arenas. Sets have been simplified and some numbers contain fewer performers than in past productions.