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Irish dance star does it his way

dancing March 18, 1997
Web posted at: 6:00 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Traditional Irish dance leaped onto the cultural scene two years ago in an untraditional way with "Riverdance." Overnight, the show's flashy modern production values turned an old-fashioned art form into a mainstream hit.

Today, an even more lavish production, "Lord of the Dance," is finding similar success. Show creator and star Michael Flatley is proud of his production's moment in the spotlight.

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"In England we sold out 12 nights at Wembley's 10,000-seater every night," said Flatley. "In Australia we did 250,000 tickets in 10 days. They had never actually seen me perform except for on video. That's how fast it has caught on."

So far, the trailblazing "Riverdance" has drawn over 2.5 million people worldwide. But Flatley's upstart "Lord of the Dance" is in hot pursuit.


A successful gamble

The 38-year Chicago native is quite familiar with "Riverdance" -- he used to be its $75,000-per-week star. Disagreements with "Riverdance" producers drove Flatley to gamble on his own production, "Lord of the Dance."

"They [producers] wanted 100 percent control over my dancing, and artistic control, and creative control," said Flatley. "And I just thought that was tremendously unfair."

Unlike "Riverdance," a plotless exhibition of Irish-influenced dances, "Lord of the Dance" is propped up by a thin story while paying homage to Irish works.

"The music is Celtic and based on its foundation," said Flatley. "But it also has a touch of rock 'n' roll. It's a show that appeals to all ages, from 5 to 85."

Lord of the Dance

The show's success has brought Flatley the attention he seems to crave. His drive, however, has also earned him the reputation for being a control freak.

"They tend to mistake self-confidence for ego," said Flatley of his critics. "I'm a self-made man. Nobody gave me anything, and I'm proud of what I do."


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