The fastest feet in dance, Michael Flatley, has officially come out of retirement to launch a new turbo-charged dance show, Feet of Flames, which will be seen in the USA in October of next year.
Flatley chose a quaint 14th-century castle in Germany as the venue for the launch of his new show, set to open in March near Frankfurt. In front of a few hundred journalists, cameramen and video operators, Flatley managed to pull off a pretty amazing stunt, rising from the depths of a lake in front of the castle to walk across the water surrounded by flames before disappearing into the castle.
It was an enthralling display of pyrotechnics, a stunt synonymous with Flatley’s love of high drama, and the perfect backdrop before which to introduce his new show to the world’s media. The Feet of Flames World Tour is billed as a spectacular dance extravaganza based on his hugely successful appearance at Hyde Park in London in July 1998, the only time Flatley has performed Feet of Flames. However, the new show, which will take place in Ireland and the U.S. as well as Europe, and boast a troupe of 50 dancers selected from the current Lord of the Dance troupes, promises new dances and routines, with music written by Ronan Hardiman, according to Flatley.
As the media crowd milled around waiting for the star to appear from the water, almost an hour after the advertised time, there was a lot of grumbling among the German reporters, whose love of punctuality apparently surpassed their desire to be dazzled by fire. A fire truck stood waiting in the background, and the wind meant that some of the planned smoke effects had to be canceled, but Flatley swooped through with no discernible problems, probably wondering if he had needed to insure his legs for $15 million for this one stunt. Afterwards he admitted that during the stunt he was lucky he didn’t “have his pride burned off.”
The crowd was then entertained by a five-minute dance display by around 20 young Irish dancers, whose hard-shoe tapping caused goosebumps to break out on more than one set of arms. Whatever you may think about Michael Flatley, he is a hell of a dancer and choreographer.
At the launch Flatley looked in good shape, and sported a dangling diamond earring in his left ear. His formfitting T-shirt emphasized the results of his recent body building, which he managed during a training stint in Malibu, California over the last few months. During this time he also managed to write two books, slated for release later this year, and to work on a feature film.
Flatley, while refusing to give any details about the content of his books, said following the launch that they will not be what people expect. Responding to questions about his alleged recent bad health, Flatley said he has never been in better shape after spending four months training in Malibu, and was examined by doctors for Lloyd’s of London, the insurance brokers, before undertaking the launch. “I feel like a million dollars,” he said. “I’m ready to dance. Let the bell ring.”
Asked by a reporter from one of the less illustrious London tabloids if he was attempting to associate himself with Jesus through his use of the title Lord of the Dance and the attempt to walk on water during his stunt, Flatley only looked amused. “I tried to bring a bit of humor to the launch, to break the ice and have a bit of fun,” he responded. “It’s what we call in Ireland `taking the mickey.'”
Ironically, Satzvey Castle, where the launch was held, was originally inhabited by a religious group of women and later by the Archbishop of Cologne.
Flatley’s Hyde Park appearance last year was supposedly his farewell to the public, but he shrugged off questions about his alleged retirement. “I needed a year off,” he confided. “I was on the road for five years and that’s difficult. People expect you to give the best show of your life every night, and they don’t care that you are on every night. But for me nothing competes with a live stage show. The drums, the lights, the people and music from someone like Ronan Hardimam. I can’t wait to dance.”
Flatley said he is not afraid of running out of original ideas, and believes there is a lot of life left in the Irish dance phenomenon sweeping across Europe — there are currently around ten Irish dance troupes on tour, he said including four Lord of the Dance troupes. “Irish dancing was a well-kept secret for a long time, and it’s not slowing down,” he said. “It’s great that so many young Irish dancers are getting a chance — I think it’s a Godsend.”
Speaking of his recent purchase of a 200-year-old house in Ireland, Castle Hyde in Cork, Flatley said Ireland is where his heart is, and, while he won’t get a chance to stay in the house often with his upcoming tour, he hopes his parents, who he said are getting older, will use the house.
His comeback next year is not an attempt to “defend” his title of Lord of the Dance, he said, nor is it an attempt to be the eternal Lord of the Dance amidst all competition. “The promoters were calling me for a long time, and I held off,” he explained. “But I just love to dance. I think people should follow their dream and be happy no matter how ridiculous it may seem. God has given me this opportunity, I’m young and I’m fit, and I want to do it. I’ll be on stage every night.”
Feet of Flames will open on March 3 next in Erfurt, outside Frankfurt in Germany, and the first 100 shows are already set for Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Austria and Switzerland. The show has received the biggest promoter guarantees ever for any arena tour to date. Flatley said he then hopes to take the show to the U.S., to New York’s Madison Square Garden in October or November 2000. Will this be his last tour, then? “I’m not thinking that far ahead now,” said Flatley. “I’m just excited and focusing on the first night.”♦