Lifestyle The Arts Lords of the Dance
Lords of the Dance
Written by Ms Jan Hallam

 

lotddg photo 8049 5338x3559-MRIrish dancing master Michael Flatley’s flashing feet, his record-busting 35 taps a second and his on- and off-stage charisma have all contributed to a legend that we collectively call Lord of the Dance.

Flatley still occasionally pulls on the dance shoes but the he has a big business to run these days and, at 57, his body is starting to tell him things his mind probably doesn’t want to hear.

He has indicated that he will retire from the stage at the end of the year but unfortunately Perth won’t see him perform when he brings the latest incarnation of the show, Lord of the Dance Dangerous Games, to the Crown in September.

The new ‘Lord’ is James Keegan and when he spoke to Medical Forum on the eve of the Australian tour he said after 12 years with the company, he still had to pinch himself that he has landed such a wonderful role.

James was born in Manchester in the UK, which is not unusual among Irish dancers. Flatley, himself, was born in Chicago such is the reach of the Irish diaspora and the commitment to keep Irish culture alive in far-flung lands.

He started dancing at the age of four and while he enjoyed it, he also loved football. He was pretty flash at that as well. At 15, he was in the academy at Blackburn Rovers having been scouted by Manchester United and considering life as a professional footballer.

“The decision was taken out of my hands when I broke my leg. A year out of football was career-ending but not for dancing,” he said
At 29 he is a veteran of Flatley’s dance troupe.

“When I started as a 17 year old, I was dancing with Michael and a lot of the original cast, so I was schooled by the best. When I took the lead in the tour of South Africa in 2004, it was quite a privilege. Just 10 years earlier I was a kid watching Michael perform in my hometown of Manchester.”

Michael and Marie Duffy Pask are the choreographers with the day-to-day whip cracking going to Marie. But it’s clear that all the dancers get a thrill when Michael pulls on the taps

lotddg photo 150x“It’s incredible for us to step on stage with Michael Flatley. Over the 12 years, I’ve danced with him a number of times but you can see the thrill on the faces of the new guys when he enters.”

James is eyeing a long career.

“Michael was 36 when he began Lord of the Dance, and I’m not very injury prone, so touch wood, I’ll be around for a while. The company looks after us really well with top physios and training and nutrition regimes to prolong our careers.”

With the current tour taking in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Italy, there’s a lot of dancing and world to see with an Irish bar in every town.

“Without a doubt, we see an Irish bar as often as we see a McDonalds. The Irish are everywhere.”

Michael Cassel and Cameron Mackintosh