Michael Flatley

A very funny review of Michael Flatley’s latest dance extravaganza – where he attempts to tell the entire history of Ireland in 2 hours through dance.

I loved Riverdance – I know a lot of Irish people think it’s awful, and it probably is, but whatever. I make no apologies. I thought it was great – although when watching the original version from Ireland I do have to turn a blind eye to Flatley’s unbelievable cheesiness, his puffy shirts, his atrocious ego, and his enormous self-pleasure which drips off of his every dance gesture. He’s a good dancer, but whatever, dude. Please take a chill. I have seen a couple different versions of Riverdance – and I saw the guy who took over for Flatley when Flatley left the show (due to “creative differences” – again: WHATEVER, dude!!!) – but anyway, whoever that guy was – Ian something – was just wonderful. He is what a dancer should be. Humble – and yet able to do the most amazing things with his body. But HUMBLE, ya hear me?? The show does not depend on Michael Flatley, no matter what he might thinks. The show is bigger than Michael Flatley.

Regardless – now apparently he has a new show out – and … the humor of that review is very subtle, but delicious nonetheless. I actually don’t mind Michael Flatley, although I recognize that he is a complete bonehead. Whatever. He’s a big cheeze doodle. No skin off my nose.

Favorite quotes from this review:

First onstage following the intermission was a single dancer wearing a flight attendant’s uniform. The crowd seemed mildly confused. Was Flatley saluting Irish aviation? Using the airplane as a metaphor for being stranded between two worlds? As we pondered such thoughts, the flight attendant began to peel off her clothes. Flatley was paying tribute to a more recent achievement, thoroughly American: the striptease. The flight attendant shed her clothes to reveal a bikini colored like the American flag—the shedding of her Irish identity?—and then began a regimen of sensual calisthenics. My notes trail off, but I have a memory of the flight attendant ending her presentation downstage, legs splayed and squatting like an offensive lineman.

So Flatley!! So cheesy!!


He debuted in the Riverdance show at the ripe age of 36. Flatley was Riverdance’s star and—according to him—its choreographer and chief inspiration, but a row over money and credit led him to quit the show before it began a second run in London. (Flatley’s agent, in a memorable diatribe, had requested that his star “be treated and respected as if Michael was Dame Judi Dench.”) Within months, Flatley had regrouped and raised his own show, which he humbly titled Lord of the Dance.

hahahaha “which he humbly titled …” I was taking dance classes at Alvin Ailey at the time of Lord of the Dance, and I remember my teacher, Maxine (unbelievable woman) saying stuff like, “Oh fuck HIM. Lord of the dance? What an ego. Asshole.” This tall lengthy gorgeous ballerina woman, fuming, with profanity, about Michael Flatley having the nerve to anoint himself “Lord of the Dance”.

More humor:

And yet Flatley is not an American exceptionalist, nor even an Irish one. His is more of a free-range patriotism—a “hooray for everybody!” approach common to Montessori kindergartens. In Celtic Tiger, Viking hordes commingle with Irish peasants. The Brits have their vile moments but are allowed a lusty chorus of “Rule Britannia.” Flatley honors Irish independence then declares his unwavering love for America. Oddly, for a show called Celtic Tiger, the finale has Flatley clad in red, white, and blue and performing “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

“hooray for everybody” – YOu know, that is so true – and actually has become more and more true about “Riverdance” as the years have gone by. The original was mostly Irish dancing, with one Spanish folk dancer and then the folk dancers from Russia. By the time it got to Broadway, the main song – about the “river” – has an African beat, and we’ve got African dancers, African songs sung by solo African singers, we’ve got dancers from Eastern Europe, we’ve got the American tap dancers, and native American dancers, and French dancers, and folk dancers from around the multi-colored world … and we’re celebrating EVERYBODY! WHOO-HOO!! Why just celebrate Ireland when you can celebrate EVERYONE?? I don’t know. I always just liked the Irish stuff, and thought the multicultural theme of the show was pushing it – although I saw what they were going for (similarities in dance styles across cultures. But whatever. Yawn. Let’s see some Irish step-dancing please and don’t WORRY about validating every other culture. If you validate Irish dancing, does that mean you INvalidate dances from other cultures? It’s that kind of universal exclusiveness that gets kind of tiresome.) Riverdance did not start out that way. The star of the show was the traditional dancing of Ireland – modernized and sexed up a bit. Sorry, other cultures. Do your own show. This one’s about Ireland.

But still. Despite that small annoyance, nothing can taint my affection for that show, and my memory of seeing it for the first time. Not even Michael Flatley’s puffy cheeze-doodle shirts, on-again off-again Irish accent, painted-on leather pants, and shoes with Lous XIV high heels. Nope. Not even HE can ruin Riverdance for me.

Bryan Curtis, the very funny writer of the piece in Slate, sums it all up with:

There are those of us who would have been happy if he’d shown up in jeans and a tank top and danced for a half hour.

heh heh

This made me laugh out loud:

With his pants casually unbuttoned, Flatley gives off a kind of tortured, middle-aged sexuality, like Bono only with a more uncertain accent. I doubted Flatley’s allure until I saw a large, graying woman, seated to my left, clomping her foot like a deranged horse until the Lord of the Dance returned for an encore.

That “tortured middle-aged sexuality” thing is so spot ON!!

Anyway, whatever. I don’t begrudge Cheeze-ball his success, even though I think he’s kind of silly and a complete and utter egomaniac. More power to him.

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42 Responses to Michael Flatley

  1. Jayne says:

    My favorite part was this –

    “Just after 8:00 pm he marched onstage dressed as a Roman general, with a breastplate and exposed legs, and clomped in front of a phalanx of soldiers. It was to be the first of many dancerly invasions. Flatley’s grand entrance was followed by the arrival of the Vikings (dancers wearing menacing helmets), then the British (dancers wearing menacing wigs).

  2. mitch says:

    “enormous self-pleasure which drips off of his every dance gesture.”

    Didn’t the nuns warn him he’d go blind?

  3. the real mitch says:

    that previous comment was actually my evil twin Jed.

    Move along.

  4. I am howling right now. You called Michael Flatley a cheeze doodle! Ha ha ha ha. I also love the visual of the graying, older woman clomping her foot like a deranged horse.

    The man has always reeked of cheese. I saw the commercial for Celtic Tiger and the whiff was just as strong.

    You’re so right about the puzzling multi-culti additions to Riverdance. After the flamenco dancer had like her 15th solo, I leaned over to my sister and said, “Who did she blow?” I still don’t get it.

    There was an interview with Flatley in a recent Time Out NY where he was trying to say that he never dubbed himself Lord of the Dance and that he’s quite humble, blah, blah, blah. The smell of cheese was soon overwhelmed by the stench of bullshit.

  5. Emily says:

    I never watched all of Riverdance or anything, but I remember Flatley’s ego being talked about more than the dancing itself.

    One day a friend of mine and I were in a video store and saw a copy of Lord of the Dance on the shelf. Do you remember the pose he made on the cover of that? Goodness, we were really, really stoned out of our minds and my friend just picked up the copy of the tape and pointed. “Look” is all she said. We could NOT STOP LAUGHING. We must have come off like the biggest asses to ever step foot in a video store, but we still couldn’t stop.

    If you can’t remember the cover, look it up. It’s a riot.

  6. red says:

    Yeah – isn’t he like posed as though he is caught in a Roman frieze? A sideways pose?

  7. red says:

    curly – hahahahaha with the flamenco dancer … exactly!! like … what the HELL is she doing taking over this show???

  8. Cullen says:

    Thanks for the humor, Em.

  9. What goes through his head, I wonder? I could not in all seriousness strap on a headband and pose in such a fashion… unless it was a parody.

    I fault those older women who squeal and toss their knickers at him. They’ve totally encouraged this behavior.

  10. red says:

    He’s the Tom Jones of the Irish dance revival.

  11. irish cheddar

    Sheila takes on Michael Flatley, he with the Feet o’ Flames, in spectactular fashion. Please read it. Oh, and speaking of cheese, check out Mr. October from The Hoff Calendar…

  12. peteb says:

    Hey.. Leave Tom Jones alone!!

    I’m laughing out loud here.. cheeze-doodle, creative differences.. LORD of the Dance!

    “be treated and respected as if Michael was Dame Judi Dench.” hahaha..

    And, of course, worth remembering that the Riverdance troupe’s first major performance was during one of the many Eurovision contests staged in Ireland.

  13. red says:

    peteb – hahahahaha

    “And here we are … YET AGAIN … broadcasting from Dublin …”

  14. hahahahaha hahahahaha

    The image of that large, greying woman and her clomping like a derranged horse is priceless.
    She was probably high on imagining herself clad in her Irish dance regalia beside Flatley!!

    I loved the original Riverdance too. And I saw the one in March in NYC this year.

    Whatever became of Jean Butler? Wasn’t she one of the original creators of Riverdance? I liked her a lot.

  15. peteb says:

    Hahaha.. I must see if I can find out what, if anything, Terry Wogan had to say about the performance at the time.

    Have to highlight this bit from the previews in England – “It is highly possible that, amid the burst of pan-nationalism, the British did not realize they were the heavies.”

    Or maybe they, too, have no sense of irony? [or that the menacing wigs weren’t menacing enough?]

  16. red says:

    “menacing wigs” hahahahaha

  17. red says:

    Jean Butler – the red-headed girl with the legs like a deer, right?

    My understanding was that in the beginning Butler and Flatley were basically hired hands – choreographers hired by this one Eurovision television producer – what was her name – Moira something. Anyway, she was supposed to create something for Eurovision, her mother was an Irish step-dancer, she was friends with James Whalen – is that his name? the composer? – so they sat down and created one number. They hired Butler and Flatley – who choreographed the piece.

    A year later – the interest in that one television spot had been so huge that that was how Riverdance was born.

    Michael Flatley was a hired hand. He choreographed it, yes, but he didn’t own it as an intellectual copyright – which is how he behaved during their business negotiations.

    I’m not sure what happened to Jean Butler. What a beautiful woman.

  18. red says:

    Argh – Bill Whalen. Sorry – I’m typing too fast.

  19. Lisa says:

    Lord of the Dance scares the bejesus out of Chandler Bing.

    And me.

    “His legs flail around as if independent from his body!!”

  20. red says:

    peteb –

    That’s one thing about Flatley: he has NO sense of irony. NOne. If he wore puffy shirts and skin-tight pants with a sense of irony – then maybe I wouldn’t laugh.

    But sorry. People who are that earnest, and that lacking in irony, are BEGGING to be made fun of.

    Like David Hasselhof, come to think of it.

  21. peteb says:

    Ah.. the ‘Hof-meister.. you know, that comparison is just sooo appropriate.

    Oh and here you go with Jean Butler

    According to the site, in the Biog, the producer was Moya Doherty.. Flatley gets a [brief] mention too.

  22. Emily says:

    No joke he has no sense of irony. That picture that I linked to…you can just tell he thought he looked so goddamm cool. He has no blooming idea how many people are laughing at it. “Celtic chic, baby! I gots the knots to prove it.”

  23. red says:

    You cannot have a sense of irony and have such an out of control ego!

    He actually has the BALLS to call himself “Lord of the Dance”? Woah. Uhm … wow.

  24. red says:

    Ah yes- Moya Doherty.

  25. peteb says:

    btw that’s Jean Butler – who “has also enjoyed enormous success, starring in and choreographing Riverdance – The Show.”

    That’ll be where the creative differences came in then.

  26. JFH says:

    I saw an interview with Jean Butler after Flatley had left the cast of Riverdance. She claimed that Flatley was essentially a nobody in the Irish Dance competition circuit and that everyone knew that Colin Dunne should have been in the lead role the whole time (just not as photogenic, or blonde as Flatley).

  27. red says:

    Colin Dunne!!! That was his name! Thank you!

  28. peteb says:

    It’s amazing what’s actually on-line.. a low-res [unfortunately] still photo from a rehearsal for the 1994 performance… Hasselhof would be proud.

  29. Did someone say David Hasselhoff and puffy shirt? Click here.

    The Hoff and Michael Flatley are most definitely Brothers in Cheese. I think if they were to do a show together, my head could very well explode.

  30. Lennie says:

    Flatley’s show at New York New York in Las Vegas ran for so long, eventually everyone just called it Bored of the Dance.

  31. red says:

    lennie – hahahahahahahahaha

  32. DBW says:

    “tortured middle-aged sexuality”

    I feel his pain.

  33. Doug Sundseth says:

    “hooray for everybody”

    You know, from the description all I can think of is a Disneyworld production. And since you made me think of it, I’m afraid I must end with, “It’s a small world after all, ….”

    Sorry, but giving it to someone else is the only way to get rid of it.

  34. Mitchell says:

    sorry..i hate him so much the thought makes me throw up in my mouth a little!

  35. Just1Beth says:


  36. myron says:

    In a word- Riverpants

  37. Ivanka says:

    Is it true he really does hate disabled people and he hates ugly people that he will only talk to pretty people or meet pretty people? I am just wondering if it’s a rumer if so Can you tell me why someone said that? Please write back thanks

  38. terry says:

    “Flatly my dear…I don’t riv a dance”

    What a surge of warmth I get through my corduroys when I see this

    appalling twig of a man. watching him gasp in the crowd applause is not
    Ricky Jervais’ brilliant expose of the stupid middle aged wanker with the
    suffocating ego lives.

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