Michael Flatley: I was warned not to embarrass Irish dancing at Eurovision

Riverdance star Michael Flatley has said he was warned not to embarrass Irish dancing when he performed at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994.

The dancer caused a stir with his interval act, when he took to the stage with a non-traditional routine, which broke strict rules about what was acceptable.

Instead of a rigid upper body, with arms by his sides, he burst on to the stage in Dublin with his arms in the air.

Marking the 30th anniversary of the performance, Flatley, 65, told BBC News: “Right before I went on stage, they came to me beside the stage and said ‘Please… we’re getting calls from all the dance teachers.

“‘Please don’t wave your arms around, you’re going to make us look ridiculous in front of the world, so can we just ask you this time, whatever happens, can you keep your arms down?’ And I said no.”

The routine caused such a stir it eclipsed the Eurovision competition and Flatley, who had worked as a builder in the US, said the reception was more than he could have imagined.

He said: “We nailed it, my dream. For years, I was working on construction sites and digging foundations in Chicago. During those freezing cold winters, I was creating those steps, in my dance style, in my mind that whole time. That’s what got me through the hard, laborious work.”

Riverdance became an arena tour and Flatley later developed his own show, Lord Of The Dance, but he said it followed a difficult start in life when he was growing up dreaming of being a dancer.

He said: “I got bullied at school terribly, so I know what young lads go through and it’s trying, it’s mentally difficult. It’s stressful to have to walk into school and hope somebody doesn’t say something negative to you.”

He added he hopes his career has made it easier for boys who want to dance, saying: “If you look at our dancers now in Lord Of The Dance, the men are so powerfully built, they’ve taken it to a whole new level.”

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