Michael Flatley Opens Up
About Cancer and His Painting

Niamh, Michael St. James, and Michael Flatley arrive at the private view of “Firedance,” Flatley’s inaugural art exhibition in London, with the painting of the same name. Photo: Dave Benett

By Cliodhna Joyce-Daly, Editorial Assistant
August / September 2015

As the 20th Anniversary tour of Riverdance wraps up and Michael Flatley performed in Lord of the Dance for one last time on July 4 in Wembly Arena in London, the 57-year-old dancer spoke about his battle with skin cancer in a radio interview, saying it made him re-evaluate the important things in life and change his outlook on wealth and possessions. Flatley was diagnosed with malignant melanoma 12 years ago, which nearly finished his career.

He also touched on the physical toll his performances have had on his body and unveiled a new gallery exhibition of his paintings inspired by the movements of his feet and body when he dances.

“I am always in pain. Agony,” he told Russell Dowies on BBC Radio 2 in July. “I have wrecked my body with dance. I can’t say I wasn’t warned.”

“The value of friends – the value of loved ones – all of a sudden, material things faded away into the past,” the Irish-American dancer, who made a dance worth $293 million, told the BBC. “My art and my people that I spend time with were the thing.”

Michael Flatley’s “Lurking.” Acrylic on Marley (38in x 38in).

Michael Flatley’s “Lurking.” Acrylic on Marley (38in x 38in).

In his dancing years, Flatley earned a reputation for being the most competitive man to put on a Rutherford jig shoe. But these days, he says he’s “a mess.”

“I have reoccurring broken bones in my right foot, which spontaneously breaks itself. There is blood and sweat on the inside of every single one of my dance shoes, my lower back is in a dreadful state,” he says.

“I have no one to blame but myself.”

Now, Flatley focuses on painting, hosting his first ever gallery show in London in July. The exhibition, Firedance, featured over fifteen paintings created in a style unique to Flatley’s stage presence, substituting paintbrushes with a two-step process of applying paint to his shoes, and then using dance movements to create energetic, choreographed abstractions on canvas.

“A dance lasts only as long as it is being created, but by combining the movement of dance with the medium of paint and canvas, I can truly capture and immortalize dance movements on canvas,” he told The Irish Examiner. But he’s not quite finished yet. He also revealed that he’s received an offer to bow out in a huge dance extravaganza in Las Vegas in 2015. “We received a big offer to put our show on in Las Vegas with me finishing on St Patrick’s Day so I may take a look at that,” he said. ♦

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