I Only Left Riverdance So I Could Wear These Pants by Michael Flatley

“Don’t act like I’m not pulling this off.”

To my Flat Pack,

As I sit here, comfortable in my retirement, I look back on what has truly been a remarkable career. I’ve been blessed to dance in front of millions. I’ve performed in some of the most iconic venues the world has ever known. Along the way, I helped bring Irish stepdance to the mainstream. But most of all, I did it my way and on my terms. Now that my performing career is over, I also feel the need to set the record straight on a few misconceptions.

Much has been written about the time when I left Riverdance and started my own production. The press said I was an egomaniac. That I wanted more money. That I wanted total control. The list could go on and on. But those things simply didn’t happen. The truth is, the only reason I left the show I loved and helped craft was because I wanted to dress like El Mariachi in a hypothetical gay porn parody of Desperado. I don’t know if such a film exists but it was certainly my driving inspiration.

The things said about me at the time weren’t based in reality. I don’t know where they got some of this stuff. Honestly, would an ‘egomaniac’ dress like this? Would a ‘flaming narcissist’ stalk across the stage “…like a step dancing Hasselhoff?” Would an ‘arrogant twit’ insist on naming his first solo show Lord of the Dance? I don’t think so.

Lord of the Trance?

It’s been more than 20 years since my departure and I still find myself wondering if my request really was too demanding. Even with the benefit of hindsight, I honestly don’t think it was. The producers of Riverdance had a strict high waisted pants/flowing tunic/glorious 90s mullet dress code. I simply wanted the freedom to express myself as I saw fit. This Celtic Tiger can’t be caged by outdated fashion sense.

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I’ve been told my late career, on-stage outfit is the walking embodiment of Liberace’s memorable wet dream during his 1977 Dublin tour stop from those who knew him best. And that’s what I was going for! If it’s good enough for the bedazzled subconscious of Mr. Showmanship, then it’s good enough for me. But apparently it didn’t work for those old fashioned, coattail riding, couldn’t-recognize-true-talent-if-it-danced-a-jig-on-their-face, producers.  Neither of us would budge so I struck out on my own.

So there you have it. Despite what others will tell you, my fashion hopes and dreams were the only reason I left. That’s not to say there weren’t other things we disagreed on. There were. When I choreographed the original show, I wanted an actual river to wash away the crowd during the finale. Think about it. A giant, cascading column of water crashing through the aisles and sweeping the audience out the doors. Wouldn’t that have been a sight? Maybe one day…

As for what the future holds, who knows? I’ve come out of retirement once, I may just do it again. Until then, remember to always let your fire dance and your heart cry out, as we reel around the sun.


Michael Flatley