Michael Flatley found his first fame starring in Riverdance, but he left the show in late 1995 due to conflicts over creative control. He dreamed and put into plan of putting together a dance show capable of playing in arenas and stadiums instead of traditional theatres. Later on, Flatley soon began thinking of rhythm patterns and steps for an a cappella number. This number would later become "Planet Ireland", the show's finale. The show took six months to bring it from conception to the stage. Auditions were held in the SFX City Theatre in Dublin.
Lord of the Dance had preview shows at the Point Theatre in Dublin from 28 June to 1 July 1996. The show staged a premiere performance on 27 June 1996 – the video was filmed on 2 July 1996. The story follows the character "Lord of the Dance" and his fight against the evil dark lord "Don Dorcha" from taking over Planet Ireland. The "Lord of the Dance" defeats the dark lord's invasion with help from a little spirit. There is also a story with a "love vs lust" theme expressed through dance throughout the show. "Saoirse, the Irish Cailín" fights for the love of the "Lord of the Dance" against the wicked "Morrighan, the Temptress". The stories are based on ancient Irish folklore and some Biblical references; the title itself, along with the central musical theme, is taken from a contemporary hymn.
In March 1997, Lord of the Dance was performed at the Oscars. That November, Lord of the Dance expanded operations by forming several troupes of dancers which would tour North America and Europe. Flatley signed a contract with Disney for Lord of the Dance to perform at Epcot in Walt Disney World in the summer of 1999 and Lord of the Dance was asked back the following summer in 2000. Troupe 4 performed at the Disneyland Paris Resort in 2002 and 2003. There are currently two troupes of Lord of the Dance productions touring the world: Troupe 1, currently touring throughout Europe and Asia and Troupe 2, touring US and Canada including Europe too.
On 25 July 1998 after two years of touring, Flatley created Feet of Flames, an expanded version of Lord of the Dance. Feet of Flames took the dancers from all the troupes and put them together, totalling almost 100. The final stage was 180 feet (55 m) wide with multiple levels. The show was held before 25,000 people in London's Hyde Park. The special feature was a dance solo by Flatley without music. It was supposed to be the last time Flatley danced live on stage, but a different version of the show would later go on tour in 2000–01 (only one troupe appeared on this tour). The show in Hyde Park was the last time Michael Flatley danced in "Lord of the Dance", he would go on to do the Feet of Flames World Tour, and after that Celtic Tiger. The Lord of the Dance 10th Anniversary Party was held in June 2006.
Flatley returned to perform in Feet of Flames 2009 in Taipei.
In April 2010, he announced that he would be returning to headline the Lord of the Dance show, with performances in Dublin's The O2, Belfast's Odyssey Arena, London's O2 arena, Sheffield's Sheffield Arena, Manchester's MEN Arena, Birmingham's LG Arena, Nottingham's Trent FM Arena, Liverpool's Echo Arena, London's Wembley Arena, Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena in November 2010, with dates also announced in Germany, Switzerland & Austria, the first time he will have done so since 1998.
A DVD and Blu-ray disc of the film was released entitled Michael Flatley Returns as Lord of the Dance on 28 June 2011 in US and Canada, and 4 August in Australia, 12 September 2011 in the UK and October in Germany, France, Benelux and Scandinavia. The 3D version of the film was released only in Blu-ray in late 2011. The film shows the performances from the O2 Arenas of London, Dublin, and Berlin.
Over the years, along with several troupes, the lead dancers have changed.Lord of The Dance: Michael Flatley
Saoirse, the Irish Cailín: Bernadette Flynn
Morrighan the Temptress: Gillian Norris
Don Dorcha: Daire Nolan
The Little Spirit: Helen Egan
Fiddlers: Máiréad Nesbitt and Cora Smyth
Erin the Goddess: Anne Buckley
Dave Keary, Guitar
Eamon Byrne, Bass
Gary Sullivan, Drums
Máiréad Nesbitt, Fiddles
Cora Smyth, Fiddles
Liam O'Connor, Box
Ger Fahey, Pipes
These cast members were on Flatley's return tour throughout Europe and are on the 3D film which was later released on DVD and Blu-ray.Lord of The Dance: Michael Flatley
Saoirse, the Irish Cailín: Bernadette Flynn
Morrighan the Temptress: Ciara Sexton
Don Dorcha: Tom Cunningham
The Little Spirit: Katie Pomfret
Fiddlers: Giada Costernaro and Valerie Gleeson
Vocalist: Deirdre Shannon
Bernadette Flynn toured with the show until 2010. Gillian Norris left the show in early 2008. Daire Nolan left the show shortly after its first run in Epcot in 1999. Mairead Nesbitt is now with the Celtic band Celtic Woman. Cora Smyth toured with Flatley in Celtic Tiger until he cancelled the concert due to a viral infection. Anne Buckley left the show in 2001 and has made her own solo album.
Act 1:Cry Of The Celts
Siúil A Rún (Instrumental)
Strings Of Fire (Instrumental)
Erin The Goddess
The Lord Of The Dance (Instrumental)
Act 2Spirit In The New World
She Moved Through The Fair
Michael Flatley starred in the show from 1996 to early 1998 before going on to Feet of Flames. This incomplete list includes Troupes 1, 2, 3, and 4.
1996 – with Michael Flatley 28 June to 30 December: Ireland premiere, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand
1997 – with Michael Flatley 3 January to 27 November: United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia
1998 11 January to 10 December: England, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Austria, France, Norway.
1999 9 January to 19 December: Israel, Germany, England, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Portugal.
2000 26 January to 16 December: Japan, South Africa, France, United States, Germany, Argentina.
2001 21 January to 22 December: Germany, France, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, England, the Netherlands, Japan, Russia, Estonia, Belgium.
2002 16 February to 31 December: France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Lebanon, England, Finland, Russia, Ukraine,
2003 1 January to 16 December: France, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Spain,
2004 13 January to 19 December: Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Switzerland, France, Greece, Czech Republic, South Africa, Israel, China.
2005 12 January to 31 December: Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland, Macedonia, England,
2006 1 January to 26 June: England, Chile
2007 Troupe One – 1 March to 22 December: Poland, United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Greece
2010 – Tour with Michael Flatley – UK, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria
2015 – Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games had temporary shows at the Playhouse Theatre, London and at the Lyric Theatre, Broadway and two touring casts elsewhere at the same time – one was in Sydney, Australia and also in Auckland, New Zealand, the others were spread across Europe. The European tour included countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and Poland.