After 20 years of touring with Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley, 57, is hanging up his dancing shoes. He's retiring after one last tour, Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, hitting the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday.
This might be Flatley's last time performing in Philadelphia, and he'll miss the area. "We would start in Philadelphia or New Jersey because we knew the audiences were great," Flatley said. "They're a learned audience. They've seen so many things before. You get a truth in their response."
Why retire now?
It's a perfect time for me. I feel as if I've accomplished what I set out to do. For 20 years, I've kept these dancers employed. We've toured extensively. We have a group in Thailand now. I'm at an age where I only dance two numbers in the show, but I lead those dances at a high level. In a couple of years, I don't think I could say that, hand on heart.
I'm sure your body has taken quite the beating.
This type of dance is particularly brutal. I was the first person to do it for an extended period of time. That's why I'm so careful with my dancers. I have a lot of friends who are professional athletes, and we like to get together and have a couple of beers and exchange horror stories. I always win. It's a never-ending list of injuries.
What's the first thing you'll do after that last show?
I don't think that far ahead. I want to finish in Las Vegas on a high. Then I want to take my wife and son someplace warm. We missed the holidays because we were on Broadway. I'm going to do some music and some film work, and I'm a painter as well. I'll always run the show, but the new stars will take over. I'll be producing and directing and choreographing and quality control.
What's different about "Dangerous Games"?
I think everything has moved on. Technology is evolving every day. We added some terrific new technology. We have a big screen that's the whole back of the stage. We have a new score, new sound and lighting, new costumes. . . . We have holograms.
You were really integral to the success of this show. What is it about you and the way you dance that makes people want to buy tickets?
I couldn't answer that. If you ask 100 different people, you'd get 100 different answers. People leave feeling uplifted and entertained. I want to take people to a happy place. It's a dose of good energy. We get to give people more than their money's worth. I think that's why we're still here.
You're also writing a book.
I'm collaborating with Opus. They've done Nelson Mandela and Michael Jackson and Ferrari. It was a big challenge to go back and relive all the moments of your career and go look at those old photographs, remembering the pain, the hard work, remembering everything we went through. It was hard to do, and we've survived. All of these thousands of dancers have made a living doing what they loved over the years. It's hard for most people to fathom how hard it is to put on one show. It's an enormous task. It's a real honor to do this book.
Any particular memories the book jogged?
I couldn't point to one - we went from crying to laughing in equal measure. Even just one picture they took of my legs. They were all bandaged up, one of my toes was broken. There was the pain, but there was the high of performing. It's great to relive it, from the beginning Eurovision show through Dangerous Games, it's been quite a ride.
What's one thing you won't miss?
Living out of a suitcase. I'll be happy to spend more time home in London with my wife and son. That will be a good part of retiring for me. Let's go walk down for Sunday brunch and eat whatever we want and not have to worry about the incessant training.
Do you have any memories of Philadelphia?
Nothing I'm allowed to talk about in the press.
"Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games." At 6 p.m. Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St. Tickets: $45-$85. Information: 215-336-3600 or www.comcasttix.com.