Saturday 21 April 2018

Flatley hangs up dancing shoes as business ventures take flight

Michael Flatley and his girlfriend Niamh O''Brien. Photo: Getty Images
Michael Flatley and his girlfriend Niamh O''Brien. Photo: Getty Images
Michael Flatley in Michael Flatleys film Lord of the Dance

Niamh Horan, Entertainment News Reporter

One of the world's greatest performers, Michael Flatley, has shocked his global fanbase by proclaiming he is done with dancing.

The maestro of Irish dance, who last performed for an audience in February, has just turned down a mutli-million euro tour of America, instead choosing to focus on his expanding business ventures, saying: "I don't see dancing in my future."

The Chicago-born performer made the dramatic proclamation as he threw open the doors of his lavish Castlehyde Estate in a bid to help put the Cliffs of Moher on top of the world.

Flatley is determined to help the Clare attraction capture the prized designation as one of the Seven Wonders of Nature -- which would see it join the Grand Canyon, the River Amazon and Great Barrier Reef on the list.

To help the campaign, Flatley's Lord of the Dance show will be staged at the cliffs on September 1 and 2, with more than 10,000 people expected to attend -- but Flatley has said he has hung up his dancing shoes.

"Last time I danced it was for the Prince of Wales and Camilla at a private function at Buckingham Palace. That was in February. I've never danced at all since then," he said.

Opening up about his private life with stunning performer Niamh O'Brien, he said: "On Friday nights, I dance at home with my wife Niamh on our date night.

"I decant the wine, while she gets dressed. I put on a tux and pour myself a Martini and put on Sinatra.

"I don't learn any new moves anymore. My life is so busy with several different businesses; you can't find the time to do everything."

Asked if he is done with dancing, the affable star, who is still in impeccable shape, said: "Yes. I just got offered a big tour of America and Africa and I turned it down.

"I don't miss it as I have other things going on now. I have a lot of other passions too. I'm not just a dancer. I'm an entertainer and I have some very interesting things on the horizon.

"I spend most of my day on the phone doing business. I am involved in a lot of other businesses as well, which all take a little nurturing and a lot of flying and a lot of time. I employ some 200 people at Unicorn entertainment alone.

"And on top of that I have a wife and a beautiful young son, I'm in heaven. I have great friends, I play a lot of golf, I love to spend time with Michael Jnr. Things are going really great for me now and I'm really happy.

"So never say never, but I can't see it in my future right now."

Relaxing in his 18th Century Cork mansion, which he bought for €3m in 2000 in a state of near-dereliction and which he spent €27m restoring to its former glory, Flatley admitted he had been affected by the recession, but spoke of the vast number of people he still employs to keep his home in order.

"I have 32 full-time staff in total," he said.

"They are always here, whether I am or not. I spend most of my time away but they keep things running at home, kitchen staff, cleaners, but most of them work outside on the land."

The star then spent another €20m to furnish, equip and decorate the mansion, which boasts views over the River Blackwater.

Castlehyde has its own six-bay garage -- complete with a clock tower and a reinforced steel roof to protect the dancer's prized car collection from rocks that might dislodge from the limestone cliff to its rear.

That collection includes a Jaguar, an MG, a BMW and a Rolls-Royce. The house itself boasts two wine cellars, a whiskey room, bedrooms decorated according to global themes, a music room, a bar, a games room and a three-storey library.

And he has also built a golf driving range, which he uses on the occasions he is home.

It's a long way from his time grafting in Digges Lane in Dublin, when he describes how: "I didn't have enough money to buy myself a drink. I remember having to borrow €50 from a young girl I was seeing at the time."

Now, 17 years since Riverdance exploded with a seven-minute segment on the Eurovision Song Contest, when 300 million viewers witnessed an Irish dancing phenomenon, Flatley is worth an estimated stg£214m (€245m).

In a position to help the Cliffs of Moher initiative with his spare time, he said: "My reason for inviting everyone was to help these people accomplish their goal. I want to promote Ireland and Irish interests and I feel these people are doing a wonderful thing."

The official list, which also is subject to a worldwide poll, will be declared on November 11.

The show features 40 precision dancers acting out the mythical Irish folk story of a battle between Don Dorcha, the Lord of Darkness, and the Lord of Light, also known as the Lord of the Dance.

Local musicians Michael O'Connell, Hugh Healy and friends with special guest, folk legend Finbar Furey and the famous Kilfenora Ceili Band, will share the finale with the Lord of the Dance troupe at the Cliffs of Moher.

Sunday Independent

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