Michael Flatley's path to stardom proves what the human spirit can accomplish when relentless drive and determination converge with dreams. His long and arduous journey from construction worker on Chicago 's South Side to one of the world's most accomplished and innovative artists alive today is an inspiration to all who face overwhelming obstacles and challenges along the road to success.
"Everyone in the world will tell you, 'No, it can't be done.' Every time I hear that, I know I'm close to success."
Born July 16, 1958 , Michael is the second of five children. He has a brother and three sisters. His parents, Michael and Eilish, emigrated from Ireland in 1947 and settled in Chicago , Illinois , where they established a successful construction business. Michael credits his father with instilling in him the tireless work ethic and extraordinary drive that empowered him in his quest to transform dreams into reality.
"I can go back to when I was six years old. I was always getting in trouble for dreaming, and the things I got in trouble for dreaming then are the things I'm doing today."
Dance was in his blood. Though Michael was born and raised in the United States , he often visited family in Ireland . His mother and his maternal grandmother, Hannah Ryan, were both champion Irish dancers. Hannah taught Michael his first few steps at the age of four and always encouraged him to follow his heart and his dreams. Years later, when these dreams became reality, an empty front row seat at every show marked his silent tribute to the late grandmother he so adored.
"She once visited me in Chicago in an ice cold winter. At that time I was completely broke, working occasional jobs for a couple of bucks an hour, dreaming of becoming the greatest dancer in the world. It was she who encouraged me to make my life special and to dance. Two weeks later she died. The empty seat is a sign of my respect to her, for I believe she is still watching me."
Michael's parents were committed to retaining their children's Irish heritage, so at age 11 Michael was "dragged by the ears" to Irish dance class. He was sent home after being told he was too old, but Michael persisted. Not only because "there were lots of pretty girls in class," he confesses with a grin, but also because he could not let a challenge go unanswered. Surpassing his classmates in winning competitions, 17-year-old Michael became the first American to bring the title of All-World Irish Dancing Champion to the US . At the same time Michael studied traditional Irish flute and won the first of several titles as All-Ireland Flute Champion. His destiny and his dreams were beginning to merge.