Weekly Comment:
Michael Flatley receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Michael Flatley performs at the Irish America Business 100 Awards Luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan December 3. He was given a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contributions to Irish music and cultural diplomacy. (Photo: Nuala Purcell)

By Irish America Staff
December 4, 2015

Riverdance and Lord of the Dance superstar Michael Flatley received a lifetime achievement award from Irish America magazine December 3 at the 30th annual Business 100 Awards Luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan. Flatley, who is also a Golden Gloves-winning boxer and world-class flutist, received the award for his contributions to Irish dance, music, and cultural diplomacy. Jim Clerkin, president and CEO of Moët Hennessy North America, also received the Keynote Speaker award and delivered the main address.

Award recipients Michael Flatley and Jim Clerkin with House of Waterford Crystal awards. (Photo: Nuala Purcell)

Award recipients Michael Flatley and Jim Clerkin with House of Waterford Crystal awards. (Photo: Nuala Purcell)

Flatley “is truly a renaissance man,” Irish America co-founder and editor-in-chief Patricia Harty said. “Whatever he has done, he has pushed himself to excel, whether it’s art or business.”

Harty presented Flatley with the House of Waterford Crystal Cliffs of Moher Vase.

“I’ve been in my business for 20 years now and I think we’ve had the ups and downs in equal measure,” Flatley said in his acceptance speech, referring to the long tenure of Irish America magazine and the success of Riverdance.

“There are sometimes I’ve wondered, ‘Can I get through this?’ But I think all of us, being Irish, understand you just somehow find a way,” he said.

In true renaissance fashion, Flatley also opened the event with a flute number, and obliged an encore request to close out the luncheon as well, which you can watch below.

In 1975, at 17, Flatley was the first American to win a world-Irish dance championship. The same year, and in 1976, he won the All-Ireland flute competition. After nearly two decades of performing, including touring with The Chieftans in the 1980s, Flatley came to wide-spread fame at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest as the male lead in Riverdance.

After departing Riverdance, Flatley created Lord of the Dance, which focused on performing in arenas and stadiums instead of stage theaters. He left the stage in the early 2000s, but returned earlier this decade and is in the process of performing his final appearances with the Lord of the Dance tour on Broadway in New York. In November, a part of 42nd Street near Broadway was re-named Michael Flatley Way in his honor.

Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, the most recent iteration of Lord of the Dance, had been on the West End stages for the year, but opened in New York November 7 and runs through January 3.

Flatley though, won’t be resuming his role in the show’s lead, but will be making special appearances at the end of each evening.

“My legs are in bits right now, but I’ll tell you one thing: When I’m on that Broadway stage I’ll be dancing like I’m a teenager,” Flatley told the Irish Voice.

“It’s been my dream to do Broadway. I couldn’t think of a better way to say goodbye to my fans after all of these years.”

Irish America co-founder and editor-in-chief Patricia Harty presents Michael Flatley with the Lifetime Achievement Award, a House of Waterford Crystal Colleen Vase. (Photo: Nuala Purcell)

Irish America co-founder and editor-in-chief Patricia Harty presents Michael Flatley with the Lifetime Achievement Award, a House of Waterford Crystal Colleen Vase. (Photo: Nuala Purcell)

After the conclusion of Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, Flatley will focus more on painting. He hosted 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.

Niamh and Michael Flatley

Niamh and Michael Flatley. (Photo: Nuala Purcell)

Flatley, who was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2011, is now 57 and recently debuted his new paintings at his first solo show in London.

You can read his 2011 interview with Irish America here.

And you can read his most recent interview (December / January 2016) with the magazine here.

For more coverage of the event, click here, and for more photos, click here. ICON, Plc. the Dublin-based medical research company, was the lead sponsor of the 30th Annual Irish America Business 100 Awards Luncheon. ♦

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