One of Monaco’s many charms is to be able to walk down Avenue Princess Grace when, all of a sudden, you catch sight of your hero. Last month I was lucky enough to bump into ‘Lord of the Dance’ star, Guinness World Record holder and Abstract Expressionist artist Michael Flatley.
Considering that bumping into strangers is suspended for now, and we are living in a temporary time of confinement and isolation, the world looks to the arts for morale.
Monaco Life: What made you move to Monaco?
Michael Flatley: I moved to the French Riviera in 1999, which is a long time ago now. I have had many dear friends here for years, and I have since sold my house in Villefranche and moved to the Principality. This part of the country has always felt like home. So here I am!
I have met HSH Prince Albert of Monaco on several occasions. He’s such a gentleman and a great leader, we are so blessed to have him here. In fact, we performed for His Serene Highness at the Rose Ball many years ago. It is still one of my favourite memories.
We are talking while you are on your morning walk… is this how you’re keeping fit?
I try to keep in shape. I love walking, I always have. I often walk for hours. Many of the paths in Monaco have been made with runners and walkers in mind so it’s a lovely experience.
I wake up first thing in the morning and I have three espressos, the only caffeine I have all day, then I start my morning routine. I do some stretching to prepare for my walk, I take a cup of tea to my wife and a little something for my son, then I head out on my walk, making calls along the way.
Proust’s favourite question was, according to Alain de Botton, “What do you eat for breakfast?” I am fascinated by how people start their day…
I always have a bowl of porridge after my walk, it’s a great way to start the day and gives me power for the rest of the day. Occasionally, for a real treat, I have an Irish breakfast.
Do you meditate on your walk?
I’m really big on visualising. I visualise the things I would like to accomplish in my life, where I am going and what I am going to do next, not just for this day or for this year but in 10 years and for many years after, always keeping the focus on what’s next.
What are the fun things you enjoy on the Riviera? Where are your favourite places to take your wife out for dinner?
I am a sucker for romance. I think romance is the most underrated thing we have in this world and we all need to spend a little more time focussed on that. I love to take my wife to a whole range of places, but of course it’s hard to beat Cipriani’s, The Grill, and Louis XV of course. It’s one of the first restaurants I went to 20 years ago and it has always been a favourite of mine. I love going to the African Queen in the summer for lunch.
You’re a man who leaves many people starstruck, but who in Monaco or on the Riviera have you met that has left you starstruck?
I am one of those people that loves and appreciates anyone, whoever they are. I respect any person who works for a living. My father raised me to work hard – plumbing, construction, digging ditches… It doesn’t matter if someone is the world’s most famous pop star or if they’re fixing the electrical sockets or plumbing in my house. Any person who works for a living has my full respect.
How many years have you been dancing?
Oh, I’d be embarrassed to tell you. I have been dancing for 50 years. I started dancing when I was 11-years-old and now I am 61. I have a lot of miles on me.
Will you keep dancing?
It’s difficult now because my body has taken a severe beating because of the type of dance that I do. I’ve had several injuries over the years that have not healed or have left scars: a torn calf muscle, a broken bone in my foot, fractured ribs. This was bound to happen after all the endless hours of practice and performing, but it has never stopped me. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve retired now from performing, though my shows are still touring the world. It has given me time to work on other creative outlets like my art, which is a lot less taxing on my body.
If you could have danced with anyone from any era, who would that person be?
Dancing with partners doesn’t really suit me as a soloist, but I can tell you the dancers who I have great respect for: Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov – absolutely extraordinary talent – Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Cagney had a beautiful powerful style, Gregory Hynes, Margot Fonteyn… there are too many to list.
Do you have a favourite film?
The Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro. The music by Ennio Morricone is something I could listen to for the rest of my life.
I am excited to talk to you about your passion for painting. Please tell us what made you turn to painting?
Well, I’ve been painting on and off for many years and it’s a funny story the way it took off actually. One of my dreams as a dancer was to perform in Madison Square Garden in New York. I’ve always been a boxing fan and grew up watching fights on TV of Mohammed Ali, Rocky Marciano, the great Joe Lewis, Roberto Duran… they all fought in Madison Square Garden.
When my dream came true and I performed there, my crew gave me a keepsake of the trap door I used onstage. It had thousands of my tap marks on it from dancing. When I hung it in Castlehyde, my home in Ireland, people remarked that it was a striking piece of art. The idea of painting with my feet was born.
I experimented with many techniques using my feet and my arms and realised that with the speed of movement, the colours and patterns emerged and held onto that energy. I was able to create a lasting dance on a blank canvas. I’m very passionate about it, every piece of art is a form of expression, as with dance, so to be able to transfer a dance into another form, I find it quite emotional. I love to lock myself away and paint for hours.
I wish you would dance again in Monaco. You wouldn’t say no to a little dance in Monaco, would you?
Next year will be the 25th anniversary of ‘Lord of the Dance’ – we’ll be doing a world tour and it would be lovely to come to Monaco. You never know, nothing is impossible!
To see Michael Flatley’s artwork, visit the website: https://www.michaelflatley.com/art-gallery/