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FOR four long years Jean Butler Jean Butler was born (March 14, 1971) in Mineola, Long Island. Butler, whose mother is from Co. Mayo in Ireland, began training in Irish dance at the age of four with the widely respected teacher Donny Golden.  has maintained a discreet silence about her explosive partnership with dance king Michael Flatley Michael Ryan Flatley (born July 16, 1958 in Detroit, Michigan) is an Irish-American step dancer from the south side of Chicago. His parents were from County Mayo and County Carlow. As a child, he moved to Chicago - the city which he considers his home town. .

For four long years she has gritted her teeth as she watched him claim sole credit for one of the most thrilling entertainment acts of the decade.

But now the stunning dancer has at last lifted the curtain on the behind-the-scenes bitterness which soured their relationship.

And she has told how the rift between them grew so deep they only ever spoke on stage.

"The audience saw us as a golden couple, but Michael wanted the spotlight all to himself," she says, her green eyes flashing angrily. "He thought everyone else was there just to serve him."

Flatley and the flame-haired beauty caused a sensation back in 1995 as the overnight stars of the toe-tapping Irish spectacular Riverdance.

Even then she had learned to shrug off his unshakeable belief that all the applause and adulation ad·u·la·tion  
Excessive flattery or admiration.

[Middle English adulacioun, from Old French, from Latin ad
 were for him alone.

But there was no missing the full extent of Michael's ambition as it became increasingly clear that British audiences loved her far more than him.

A knowing smile crosses Jean's freckled freck·le  
A small brownish spot on the skin, often turning darker or increasing in number upon exposure to the sun.

tr. & intr.v.
 face as she recalls: "Riverdance was created for Michael and me, the two of us. But he didn't see it like that.

"For him, it was the Michael Flatley show. He thought the applause was always for him.

"Yet, when we came to London, it was I who got all the great reviews and he who got upset. The skirt - ie, me - was getting all the attention.

"Michael was rather coldly received in the UK and he didn't like it at all. There was something about him that the British people See :
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British Overseas Territories
 didn't seem to take to.

"The show's success was secondary to him - and he had no interest in my success. If he wasn't the big star, he wasn't happy.

"It's a shame we didn't get on and I certainly don't see it as my fault.

"Michael is Michael I, Byzantine emperor
Michael I (Michael Rangabe), d. c.845, Byzantine emperor (811–13), son-in-law of Nicephorus I. He supported orthodoxy against iconoclasm and recalled Theodore of Studium from exile.
 an individual - he thinks of himself. When we won ovations at the end of a show, I felt they were for the team. Michael felt they were for him."

THE dazzling dancing duo may have thrilled audiences all over the world and pulled in a billion pounds at the box office, but the straight-talking Ms Butler makes it clear that she was never a Flatley fan.

In the years since furious Flatley stomped out of the production amid mounting rows over his star status - and his financial rewards - Jean has only seen him once.

"It was a live Irish television show and I didn't really want to do it," she says. "In the end, though, I thought why not.

"But I didn't speak to Michael either before or after the show. When we met in front of the cameras, we sort of embraced diplomatically - and that was it.

"It was a shame that things didn't work out between us. I don't hate him, we worked well together and I admire him as a dancer. But Michael's just not the sort of guy I'd ever keep in touch with..."

Riverdance made New Yorker yorker

Cricket a ball bowled so as to pitch just under or just beyond the bat [probably after the Yorkshire County Cricket Club]
 Jean an international star and a multi-millionairess. Her extraordinary skills were so prized that her legs were insured for pounds 1 million.

But two years ago she followed in Flatley's high-kicking footsteps and suddenly quit.

"I earned loads of money and travelled the world, but Riverdance became a monster. It's unreasonable to ask someone to do the same thing every night for so long. You'd need a lobotomy lobotomy (lōbŏt`əmē, lə–), surgical procedure for cutting nerve pathways in the frontal lobes of the brain. The operation has been performed on mentally ill patients whose behavioral patterns were not improved by other  to do it," she says.

Exhausted and bored to tears with the same straight-armed, toe-tapping routines night after night, Jean felt she wouldn't care if she never danced again.

But not now. As we speak in her adopted home town of Dublin, she is poised for a sensational return to what she calls "the dance".

She is immersed im·merse  
tr.v. im·mersed, im·mers·ing, im·mers·es
1. To cover completely in a liquid; submerge.

2. To baptize by submerging in water.

 in gruelling, ten-hours-a-day rehearsals for a new show called Dancing On Dangerous Ground Dancing on Dangerous Ground is an Irish dance show created by and starring Jean Butler and Colin Dunne. It premiered in London at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1999. The show made its American debut in New York at Radio City Music Hall in 2000. , which opens at London's Drury Lane Theatre Drury Lane Theatre

Oldest English theatre still in use. It was built in London by Thomas Killigrew for his acting company as the Theatre Royal (1663). It burned in 1672 and was rebuilt in 1674 with Christopher Wren as architect.
 on November 30.

Jean was persuaded back by Colin Dunne Colin Dunne, born May 8, 1968 in Birmingham, England, is a professional Irish dancer. Training
Dunne trained at the Marion Turley Academy of Irish Dance in Coventry.
, the man who took over from Flatley in Riverdance and whom Jean has no hesitation in hailing as "the greatest Irish dancer in the world".

As far as she is concerned, Flatley couldn't hold a candle to 30-year-old Dunne, with whom she has been friends since they were both teenage stars of the Irish dance Irish dances come in several forms, which can broadly be divided into social dances and performance dances. Irish social dancing can be divided further into céilí and set dancing.  contest circuit.

She says: "Irish dance is in Colin's blood. He's more authentic than Michael. And, for me, he has the added attraction of being a good friend.

"You have to remember that in Riverdance Michael and I didn't choose each other - we were both hired by someone else.

"That was half the problem. And before we knew it the show was bigger than the two of us.

"Of course, working now with a friend is much nicer than working with someone I didn't get on with.

"I am kind of resigned to the fact that people always want me to talk about Michael. I'm no longer angry or irritated ir·ri·tate  
v. ir·ri·tat·ed, ir·ri·tat·ing, ir·ri·tates
1. To rouse to impatience or anger; annoy: a loud bossy voice that irritates listeners.
 about it - just bloody bored.

"All I know is I am working with the world's best Irish dancer and I have a very good feeling about it. I know the public have an appetite for the dance and I think Dancing On Dangerous Ground is going to be a big hit."

As we chat in the office of a Dublin dance studio, 28-year-old Jean is dressed in her rehearsal gear - tight black trousers and a black polo-neck top.

GONE are her famous Riverdance curls. Her enormous shock of bright red hair is swept back in a loose, almost waist-length pony tail.

But the most striking thing about Jean Butler is that she is stick thin. You feel that if she turned sideways you'd lose sight of her.

And it is no surprise that the 5ft 10in dancer was once branded anorexic an·o·rex·ic
Relating to or suffering from anorexia nervosa.


Still angry over the two-year-old charges, she declares: "That was a huge insult. At the time. I was still in Riverdance. Why would I have jeopardised my part in the show or my reputation?

"I try to look after myself, but I'm naturally pretty thin and when I'm dancing I could eat a small horse every night and still lose weight.

"At the moment, in rehearsals, I'm losing God knows how much weight every day. And that's despite eating regular meals and loads of bananas to give me energy.

"The very notion of me being an anorexic is laughable. I love food, I'm a keen cook and I'm a normal healthy eater."

As if to prove the point, she enthusiastically recommends three of her favourite Dublin restaurants and drools over the city's famous seafood.

SADLY, though, when it comes to romantic dinner dates she has no one special to share them with.

Despite the sexiness of some of her routines with Dunne in a story of two mythical myth·i·cal   also myth·ic
1. Of or existing in myth: the mythical unicorn.

2. Imaginary; fictitious.

 lovers, they are just good friends. In fact, he is engaged.

Jean, meanwhile, has just come out of a long relationship and is currently strictly single. She says: "Right now, I'm finding relationships really difficult. I was with someone for quite a long time.

"I'm alone. I share my house in Dublin with my younger sister Cara."

Cara, 25, is also in Dancing On Dangerous Ground.

The girls grew up in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
. "My parents are still there," Jean says, "and my brother works in Manhattan. But I left at 17 and I haven't really lived there since."

She came to Britain and studied drama at Birmingham University Birmingham University, at Birmingham, England; founded 1900. It has faculties of arts, science, engineering, medicine and dentistry, commerce and social science, law, and education and continuing studies. , a course she funded herself by seizing the chance to dance with the legendary Irish band The Chieftains.

She laughs. "I took over from Michael Flatley."

With Riverdance behind her, she auditioned for stage roles in Dublin. "But at every one they'd say, 'Aren't you the Riverdance girl?'

"I'd tell them I studied for four years to be an actress. I'm not saying I'm Meryl Streep Noun 1. Meryl Streep - United States film actress (born in 1949)
, but I didn't get a fair shot.

"And when my agent warned me it might be 20 years before I got my break, I thought: 'Why should I put myself through this agony of constant rejection?'

"I mean, I'm pretty well off after Riverdance and life's too short Life's Too Short is an episode of the HBO series Six Feet Under. Plot
Claire and Gabe reunite under tragic circumstances when Gabriel's little brother dies ffrom accidentally shooting himself while playing with a gun, and later ends up beaten up by his step-father during
. So I've come back to dancing - and I'm loving it.

"It was so easy to leave that show because it was artistically so restrictive. I think I might have a mental block about it now. I can't even do the steps any more - I've forgotten them!

"Both Flatley and I were in a rat race then.

"I remember when we got to Broadway, looking around and thinking, 'What the hell happened? How did we get to New York?'."

Flatley went on to create Lord Of The Dance, the extraordinary extravaganza ex·trav·a·gan·za  
1. An elaborate, spectacular entertainment or display: "Washington is an extravaganza of great buildings, greenery, and monuments" Larry Griffin.
 which showcases him like no one has ever been showcased before.

As for Jean, she has learnt a valuable lesson.

"I'll never be in anything that gets nasty, ugly or legal again," she says. "In Riverdance it got to the point where the lawyers were more important than the performers.

"Dancing On Dangerous Ground is about dancing and telling a good story, not stars.

"I promise you, it will not be anything like Lord Of The Dance. It'll be fun."
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 26, 1999
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