Former Fleadh winner Michael Riverdance Flatley returns as guest of honour to open this year’s festival
The original Riverdance star Michael Flatley will open this year’s Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis on Sunday 13 August.
The man who revolutionised Irish dancing across the world will take to the Fly Shannon stage in Abbey Street Car Park, address the assembled gathering and play the flute with uilleann piper and composer Gerard Fahy.
Gerard, from Ballinakill, Co. Galway, has toured extensively with Michael and his Lord of the Dance troupe and composed Michael’s most recent stage show, Dangerous Games.
An accomplished dancer, flautist, actor, director and producer, Michael Flatley first stepped onto the world stage in 1994 in Riverdance, which caught the attention of millions around the world.
In the two decades since he has created, directed, produced and starred in several other successful shows including Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames, Celtic Tiger and Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, which he took to London’s West End and Broadway.
‘It’s a great honour to be asked to open this year’s Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis. It is such a great home of traditional music and a place I have very fond memories of, including winning the All- Ireland there many years ago. It is vitally important for all of us to nurture young talent and to encourage young people today to play Irish music. I’m really looking forward to it and am sure it will be a huge success,’ said Michael.
On behalf of the Fleadh Executive committee, chairman Frank Whelan, said they all felt hugely indebted and greatly privileged that Michael had accepted their invitation to open this year’s Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.
‘The fact that the best-known figure in the world of Irish dancing over many decades is taking the time out of his busy schedule to come to join us for the opening on Sunday 13 August is no doubt going to make the occasion truly special,’ said Frank.
Over the past 20 years Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance show has broken box office records all over the world. In 1998 the show had a record breaking run of 21 consecutive sold-out shows at London’s Wembley Arena, a record that stands to this day.
Worldwide video sales are in excess of 12 million copies. He has taken his shows to football stadia in Europe and Asia, performing live to audiences of as many as 120,000 people. Lord of the Dance was filmed in 3D 3D at the O2 arenas in Dublin, London, and Berlin and in 2011 was released in theatres across Europe and the US.
Chicago born, Michael became the first American to win the World Championship in Irish Dancing at the age of 17. He toured with The Chieftains in the 1980s, during which time he developed and refined the modern Irish dance style by using upper body movement and creating edgy rhythm patterns that departed from the traditional style. That was to become his trademark.
The seven-minute intermission performance during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest changed Irish dancing forever. After a final stage performance at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas last year Michael he turned to other artistic pursuits including painting. He is a contemporary artist and his works of abstract expressionism have been lauded by critics as “striking”.
In 2015 his paintings officially became the highest valued artworks sold at auction in Ireland for that year. His other lifelong creative outlet is filmmaking and thus far he has written, directed and starred in two short films. His next venture is a feature film.