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Michael Flatley
Judge Profile
Birth Date 16 July 1958 (1958-07-16) (age 65)
Hometown Chicago, Illinois

Season(s) Season 7

Michael Ryan Flatley is an Irish-American former dancer, choreographer, and musician.

He was a guest judge in week 6 of season seven of Dancing with the Stars.

Early Life[]

Flatley is a native of South Side, Chicago. He is of Irish ancestry. His parents were both born in Ireland, Michael from County Sligo and Elizabeth (née Eilish) Ryan from County Carlow, but immigrated to the United States in 1947, eleven years before Michael's birth. Michael Sr. was a plumber who inspired his son by playing Irish music and Eilish was a gifted step dancer. His grandmother, Hannah Ryan, was a champion dancer. Michael is the second of five children. He has three sisters, Anne-Marie, Eliza and Thomasina, as well as a brother, Patrick.

Beginning in the late 1960s, when Flatley was eleven years old, he was taught dance by Dennis G. Dennehy at the Dennehy School of Irish Dance in Chicago. Flatley went to Brother Rice High School, an all-boys Catholic private school on Chicago's Southwest Side.

In 1975, at age seventeen, Flatley was the first American to win a World Irish Dance title at Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne, the Irish dancing championships.

In 1975 and 1976, Flatley won twice in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil concert flute competitions.

Also in 1975, Flatley competed in the amateur boxing Chicago Golden Gloves tournament in the 126 pound novice division; however, he lost to Kenneth Reed on 25 February.


Early Career[]

After graduating high school, Flatley worked as a stockbroker, a blackjack gambler, and a flautist. From 1978 to 1979, Flatley toured with Green Fields of America. In the 1980s, he toured with The Chieftains but the relationship soured when Flatley wanted to become a full time member of the band.


In 1994, Flatley, fellow Chieftains performer Jean Butler, and vocal ensemble Anúna were invited to perform a seven-minute show for the interval act of the Eurovision Song Contest 1994, which was held in Ireland. The performance did something never done before in Irish dance - it "made the dance sexy". After receiving worldwide acclaim, Flatley pushed to make the show into a full length performance. The show was called Riverdance, produced by Moya Doherty, with many numbers choreographed by Flatley. In September 1995, after the show sold out, Flatley got into a dispute with producers over his salary and royalty fees and was fired the night before the show was set to open in London, replaced with Colin Dunne. Flatley, who had a playboy lifestyle, an ego, and wanted to take the spotlight, also did not work well with Butler, who had a different mentality.

Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames[]

Immediately after the Riverdance split, Flatley decided to create his own show, Lord of the Dance. It premiered in June 1996 at the Point Theatre (now 3Arena) in Dublin then made its U.K. premiere at the London Coliseum. The music for the show was composed by Ronan Hardiman. In 1997, Flatley earned £36 million, ranking him 25th among the world's highest earning entertainers.

In 1998, Flatley created an expanded version of the show called Feet of Flames which was performed outdoors in Hyde Park, London on a four-tier hydraulic stage, with a live band including guitarists and violins, and over a hundred dancers performing on all four levels of the stage, again with music by Ronan Hardiman. The show featured six new numbers; one of which is Flatley's solo. Flatley had to pay approximately £1 million to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit from his former manager, John Reid.

In 1999, he produced another version of that show that included half of the original show and half new material. Titled Feet of Flames: The Victory Tour, the show was performed a single-level stage and toured Europe in 2000 and the U.S. in 2001.

Celtic Tiger[]

Flatley's next show, Celtic Tiger Live, opened in July 2005. The show explores the history of the Irish people and Irish emigration to the U.S., fusing a wide range of dance styles, including jazz. The show also includes popular elements from his previous shows, such as Flatley's flute solos and the line of dancers in the finale.

Flatley wrote "I will be a dancer until the day I die" in the program book of the show.

On 15 November 2006, Flatley was admitted to a private London hospital with a viral infection. All the fall and winter tours of Celtic Tiger Live were cancelled. He was discharged two weeks later.

Television Performances (2007-2009)[]

In November 2007, Flatley and a troupe of male dancers performed on Dancing with the Stars in the U.S. In October 2008, he appeared as a guest judge on an episode of the show, filling in for Len Goodman. He performed the solo "Capone" from Celtic Tiger on the show. Flatley was also the host of Superstars of Dance, an NBC series that ran for five episodes in early 2009.

Return to the Stage (2009-2010)[]

In December 2009, Flatley returned to the stage for a limited run of the "Hyde Park" version of Feet of Flames in Taiwan. The run of shows had to be extended to meet the demand for tickets.

In 2010, he returned to headline the Lord of the Dance show, with performances in arenas in England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

Lord of the Dance 3D, the 3D film of the return tour, debuted in theaters worldwide in 2011. The movie featured performances with new sets, new costumes, state-of-the-art lighting, pyrotechnics, and projections. The 3D film was also released on Blu-ray and a DVD and Blu-ray disc, Michael Flatley Returns as Lord of the Dance, were created.

Flute Album (2011)[]

In 2011, Flatley released "On a Different Note", a flute album. The 25 tracks include airs and tunes he has played in his shows, other traditional tunes, and new compositions.

A Night to Remember[]

On 18 May 2014, Flatley recorded a one-off 60-minute ITV Music Specials episode titled Michael Flatley: A Night to Remember celebrating his long career. The show aired 1 June 2014 and was presented by Christine Bleakley.

Injuries and Retirement[]

In May 2015, Flatley revealed that much of his vertebral column was irreparably damaged and that he had a damaged left knee, a torn right calf/triceps surae muscle, two ruptured Achilles tendons, a fractured rib, and a recurring broken bone in his foot.

In November 2015, Flatley's show Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games premiered at the Lyric Theatre, a Broadway theatre. Due to his injuries, Flatley was only able to perform in the final two numbers of the performance. After shows in New York, Flatley went on a final tour in the United States. Flatley's last show was in Las Vegas on St. Patrick's Day 2016.

Trump Inauguration[]

In January 2017, Flatley introduced his troupe for a performance at the inauguration of Donald Trump. Flatley called it "a great honor".


In 2018, Flatley wrote, directed, financed, and starred in Blackbird, a spy fiction movie set in Barbados, Ireland and the UK. The film co-stars Patrick Bergin and Eric Roberts. Blackbird was scheduled to receive its world premiere in a private showing at the Raindance Film Festival in London, where Flatley was also a member of the Festival Jury. As of November 2018, the filmmakers are yet to announce a date for the film's general release, though pre-production work has already begun on Flatley's second film, titled Dreamdance, set in Hollywood at the outbreak of World War II.

Personal Life[]

In 2001, Flatley purchased Castlehyde, the house originally owned by Douglas Hyde, the first president of Ireland, in North Cork, then in a derelict condition, for €3 million. Flatley spent €27 million renovating the mansion and another €20 million furnishing it with artwork and antiques. In 2015, Flatley purchased a mansion in Belgravia, just off Eaton Square, for €28 million and listed Castlehyde for sale for €20 million.

In addition to Castlehyde and his London mansion, Flatley owns valuable properties in the Caribbean, New York, Beverly Hills, and Villefranche-sur-Mer. He has invested a significant portion of his wealth in Berkshire Hathaway.

In 2003, Flatley was falsely accused of rape by real estate agent Tyna Marie Robertson. Flatley maintained that the sex was consensual, and in the subsequent court case, Robertson was ordered to pay $11 million compensation to Flatley for defamation and extortion.

In 2006, Flatley released "Lord of the Dance: My Story", his autobiography. In April 2006, Flatley spoke about his facial skin cancer.

In June 2006, Flatley began dating dancer Niamh O'Brien, who danced in several of his shows. They were married in a Roman Catholic ceremony in Fermoy, County Cork, 14 October 2006, with a reception at Castlehyde. He and his wife have a son, Michael St. James, born in 2007.

In 2010, Flatley dedicated the Garden of Memory and Music in County Sligo, the village his father left to seek a new life in America. The ceremony included a speech and an impromptu performance of one of his father's favorite tunes.

Also in 2010, Flatley participated in the fundraising JP McManus Pro-Am in Adare, County Limerick, Ireland.

Flatley has raised over €1 million for his charitable foundation by selling paintings made using his feet.