Grrr! One can't be faulted for thinking unkind thoughts about Michael Flatley. A man who christens his life's work "Feet of Flames" is simply...

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Grrr!


One can’t be faulted for thinking unkind thoughts about Michael Flatley. A man who christens his life’s work “Feet of Flames” is simply begging for charges of cheese. His self-proclaimed title, “Lord of the Dance,” could be considered less than humble.


Not to mention Flatley’s wardrobe of choice: The shirts either scandalously unbuttoned or entirely absent, the array of shiny leather goods, the googol of sequins, the revealing trousers. And the astonishing collection of posed photos on michaelflatley.com, at least one which might well be captioned Speedo of Flames.


But say what you will about this Chicago-born showman’s style, the fact is he packs in and pleases the crowds. Considered the highest-paid dancer in the world (at well over $1 million a week), Flatley has patented a particular blend of Irish dance and Vegas bling that continues to wow audiences the world over.




Coming up


“Celtic Tiger”


With Michael Flatley, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Everett Events Center, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Everett; $49-$69 (www.everetteventscenter.com or 866-EEC-TIXX).


His latest show, “Celtic Tiger” (which he created, produced and directed), is a top-o-the-mornin’ tribute to all things Irish, from Druids (not particularly known for their choreography) to Yankee Doodle Dandies (who never met a jazz hand they didn’t like). The extravaganza features 60 dancers and 50 crew members backstage, and the whole shebang is currently traveling across North America in a convoy of 11 semi trucks and five tour buses.


If the sheer enormousness of Flatley’s vision fails to impress, consider this: In 1998, Flatley broke his own Guinness World Record by tapping 35 taps in a second.

Think about that, and then think about the comparative uselessness of your own feet. Suddenly Feet of Flames doesn’t sound so far off, does it? Cheese charges aside, there’s no denying the Lord of the Dance can cut a rug.


We spoke with Flatley during the Canadian leg of his massive tour, somewhere between Ontario and Manitoba. In startling contrast to his showy image, the Flatley on the phone was unassuming, soft-spoken, and honestly? A heck of a nice guy.


Q: How do you prepare for a show of this magnitude?


A: I spent 27 weeks putting the show together, and it was really worth it. Personally I think it’s my best show ever. It’s very close to my heart — it’s my thank-you to America for accepting all the Irish immigrants. The show finishes with a “Yankee Doodle Dandy” number, which is a celebration of the 54 million Irish Americans.

Q: Are you the Celtic Tiger?


A: [Laughs] No. The Celtic Tiger refers to the spirit of Ireland. It’s a phrase used in the financial pages referring to Ireland’s recent economic success. But it’s also the heart and soul of the Irish people, who’ve had to overcome so many obstacles.


Q: At age 17, you won a Golden Gloves boxing championship, as well as the All-World Irish Dancing Champion title. Are boxing and dancing connected?


A: I’m still in training — I still hit the bag. I work out with gloves. Boxing teaches you a lot about discipline. And advance preparation makes all the difference in all walks of life.


Q: Were you ever made fun of for being interested in dance?


A : As a boy I was more known for boxing, so that was never the case. And as you see in the shows, our form of dance is very masculine. Which is why it draws such a large female audience.


Q: Both your mother and grandmother were champion Irish dancers. How did they influence you?


A: My mother never danced in front of me — she only danced as a child. And I didn’t get to see my grandmother dance often, since she lived in Ireland. That’s why it’s lucky that the dancing came from inside of me. That’s also why it’s so different from traditional Irish dance.



Q: Why do you think the shows “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance” became such runaway hits?


A: “Riverdance” was the first time people saw this form of dance on such a big scale. And the shows appeal to people of all nationalities, races and ages. It’s good clean family entertainment.


Q: Who else would you call a Lord of the Dance?


A: Who wouldn’t admire Fred Astaire and Gregory Hines? There are many great dancers in the world.


Q: Why are your legs worth being insured for $40 million?


A: If I go down, the whole show goes down.


Q: Does that mean you have restrictions on how you can use your legs?


A: There are all sorts of restrictions. I’m only supposed to dance for live shows, never for television, and I have to bring my own stage with me everywhere I go. But these are all good problems to have.


Q: What’s next for the “Celtic Tiger”?


A: The show will eventually get a home on Broadway, and probably in Vegas. But I’ll be on the road with it for about a year, so right now I’m focused on putting on the best show possible.


Brangien Davis is a regular contributor to The Seattle Times: brangiendavis@yahoo.com