Michael Flatley reveals why he's still lord of the dance
It’s 12 years since he was last in the show, which he invented after Riverdance shot him to fame.
But at 51, he claims to be as fit as ever.
Sitting in the Californian sunshine, by the swimming pool in the grounds of his Los Angeles mansion, he certainly looks the picture of health – tanned, lithe and raring to go.
So why put himself through the punishment of his breathtakingly energetic brand of dancing, when, with a fortune estimated at £250 million, he never needs to lift a finger again – let alone tap his feet a record-breaking 35 times a second?
“If I can still make a few people smile, why not?” he says. “We’re in the joy business.
“My philosophy is, stop feeling sorry for yourself and go out and do something. And 50 is the new 30.”
His urge to return to the stage came when he was invited to Cairo to see one of his shows.
“We were sitting in the royal box and it was all very civilised.
“After the opening number I was buzzing. By the end of the first half I was dancing under my chair. By the end I was standing up like an eejit, screaming with the rest of the audience.
“I haven’t accepted any offers for years, but thought ‘I want to be part of this again’.”
He sold out eight shows in Taiwan with his show Feet of Flames and it gave him the taste for something bigger.
The European tour sets off in October and includes a date at Birmingham’s LG Arena.
“I’m just dying to do it,” he says. “And after six months of working out, I’m cut and ripped.
“Sure, I’ve had to make sacrifices – I haven’t had a pint in a month of Sundays – but it depends how much you want something. You can’t look on exercise as a chore.”
But isn’t he too old? And isn’t he worried that the mysterious condition which brought him close to death four years ago might recur? It kept him in hospital for two weeks and he was too weak to leave his house for a year. Doctors suggested his gruelling work had given him chronic fatigue syndrome.
“It’s true that most of my dancers will retire before they turn 25,” he admits. “But we are all different.
“You can’t let pain get in the way. I just say ‘hello my old friend’. If it wasn’t getting sore from head to toe, I wouldn’t be pushing myself hard enough.
“When I got ill, they flew in the greatest specialists from around the world, who decided it was no known virus.
“I hate taking any kind of drugs, but eventually I met a healer in Ireland, Michael O’Doherty, who worked on my energy fields. Job done.
“I kept telling myself ‘I will feel better’ and before I knew it, there I was. Nothing is impossible.
“The doctors thought my time was up but they all advised me that, if I pulled through, I’d better not dance again because it was too strenuous. But now I’m breezing through all my medicals and they’ve said I’m in perfect fitness.
“I’m telling them to add as many dates as they want to the tour, I’m not even thinking about the possibility of getting ill again. I have not one ounce of negativity, I refuse to allow it in.
“There’s no stopping me. I make no concession at all to my age. If people want to say ‘he’s too old’, that’s nonsense!
“I’m so blessed. We still sell out everywhere and constantly give people more than their money’s worth. Every night we give every drop of energy we have and the audience gives it back. They go home feeling great.”