When it happened that evening, think it’s fair to say it blew everyone away, no one was expecting it. We were expecting some Irish dancing of course:
And it wasn’t universally loved – many didn’t like the arms straight by the sides business – but overall, yes, it wowed, it even wowed Wogan.
My thoughts at that time [end of the dance] was that she [Jean Butler] was a bit of a sourpuss and her dance had been a bit turgid, a bit constipated, maybe the lass was nervous. I suspected either some jealousy or else she was just constipated by nature.
If it had been left at that and they’d both gone back to their careers as dancers, it would have been fine but someone had the idea that this was the Big Time for them, the big money spinner and it became a stage show.
Personally, I couldn’t see why – we had it on film, we could watch it when we wanted but that’s what they wanted and so it went. Good luck to them.
Then reports started coming through that things had gone sour and first one, then the other, left the show:
“As for the sexuality, that was definitely a factor in the success of Riverdance,” says Jean, who choreographed her own solo. “That wouldn’t have happened, I believe, if it hadn’t been Michael and myself dancing together – because of my edge to match his. If it had been a 16-year-old who had no performance experience it wouldn’t have worked as well, the balance wouldn’t have been as tense,” adds Jean, who was 23 at the time (Flatley was 36).
She believes part of the tension arose from the fact that she did not fancy her co-star. And she says that Flatley, who went on to be a notorious playboy, knew it.
That’s fair enough and she goes on to describe their first meeting. He does seem a bit of a tosser and she’s within her rights not to fall head over heels. Thing is – I’ve seen this many times before [no doubt you have too]. The girl is not as flamboyant perhaps, the man is into his skill/art.
Talking Heads is an example with David Byrne, and Tina Weymouth resented him.
It also happened with an AFL footballer I read about – his [later] wife met him and thought, “No one is worth this sort of adulation.” It goes directly against what a pretty woman is about – she’s the star, she’s the one they must all talk about. Not the man.
Flatley’s ego was immense for sure – the Lord of the Dance spinoff was testament to that – but she was also that sort of judgmental woman from the very beginning.
“He said that he was the catalyst in relation to changing Irish dance. It wasn’t ‘Jean and I were the catalyst’. But then how could Michael say something like that? Michael thinks in the first person. To give me credit wouldn’t enter his brain.”
A sad souring of what had, in itself, been a magnificent performance that night in Dublin in 1994. Pity. A real pity.