Wednesday 24 January 2018

Flatley credits Irish faith healer for health as he hangs up dancing shoes

Michael Flatley with his wife Niamh. Photo: Arthur Carron
Michael Flatley with his wife Niamh. Photo: Arthur Carron

Philip Ryan and Judith Wood

Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley hung up his tap shoes and took his final bow in Las Vegas last night after a 20-year dance career.

Reflecting on the litany of injuries he sustained during his career, Flatley said his body had taken "a severe beating".

Speaking as he received an award from the American Ireland Fund in Washington, Mr Flatley said he had given "every last drop" of what he had to dancing.

"It has been a great 20 years. I would like to think the good times have outweighed the bad times, but sometimes I wonder. My body has taken a severe beating," he said.

Flatley (57) said he had both his shoulders replaced, as well as his knees, while he also needs "a lot of work" on his spine.

"It's been severe, but I wouldn't trade it for the world," he added.

Flatley took his final bow at Caesars Palace, and the Riverdance star said it was a great honour to bring his tours to the four corners of the globe.

"We have sold out every major venue from Tokyo to Texas, and from Mexico to Moscow," he added

"We have entertained people from all over the world and I'm proud to say I brought the Tricolour with me everywhere. I can honestly say, hand on heart, in front of God, I have given every last drop of what I have to my art and to Ireland."

The dancer received the Arts and Humanities Award from the philanthropic organisation.

He became an Irish dancing sensation when he dashed on to the stage at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest - with his silk shirt billowing.

With his swagger and rock star blow-dry, he broke the Irish dancing mould forever.

"The Irish are so full of passion, energy, love and all kinds of wonderful madness that it sounds a bit silly that we couldn't move our arms around, or register any facial expression," he said.

Within a year, 'Riverdance' had rolled onto the London stage. However, amid great acrimony over management and rights, Flatley went solo soon after and reinvented himself as the 'Lord of the Dance'.

But Flatley, who insured his legs for £25m, has had several brushes with ill health.

In 2006, he was treated for facial cancer before being hit with a mystery virus so debilitating he could barely walk.

"It was frightening," he recalls. "I had every conceivable test, but the cause couldn't be pinpointed. I had just married my beautiful young wife (Niamh O'Brien) and I was an invalid."

He credits his recovery to an Irish faith healer. "Looking back, I think it was probably ME. Thanks to him, my health gradually improved and I was able to continue with my life."

He may be retiring, but he is not ready for a pipe and slippers yet. He has just recorded a single, 'The Rising', to commemorate the events of 1916, on which he plays a 140-year-old wooden flute and dances percussion. He also creates abstract paintings by dancing on canvas.

Irish Independent

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