Bernadette Flynn in the Spotlight
Interview: Irish Dancing Magazine

Bernadette Flynn has played the Irish Colleen in Lord of the Dance, since the show opened in 1996. Almost 500 shows later, she has traveled the world and danced opposite Michael Flatley until he left in June 98. We caught up with Bernadette in Tel Aviv, Israel, where Troupe I were performing to packed audiences once again.

Fame...

Do you often get recognized when you are away from the theatre?

No. People do recognize me as one of the Lord of the Dance and ask what part I played. I say the one in the white dress and they say Ooo!

Do you get lots of media attention?

Not so much when Michael was in the show, but now we are promoting it ourselves, we do more interviews and television wherever we go.

Friends

Do you socialize with the rest of the troupe?

Yeah, the troupe are very close, but you have to be because you are working so closely together.

Do you have a boyfriend?

Yes, my boyfriend is Damien O'Kane, the 'good guy' in the show.

Did you know each other before Lord Of The Dance?

I kind of knew him from around the competitions. It was like that with lots of the people who are now in the show. We all got to know each other through Lord Of The Dance. Damien and I have been together two years now.

What's it like to be dancing opposite your boyfriend?

It's easier because we know each other so well, and there's obvious chemistry.

But you must have days when you don't want to be on the same stage together...

You just have to put that aside. The minute you step on stage, you're a different character. It's part of the job. You have to be professional.

Fitness

Do you have to watch what you eat, to stay slim and have enough energy?

We all eat carefully for health reasons.We have caterers who travel with us. I only have a sandwich for lunch and eat at the venue at about 5:30 pm. The caterers have been with us so long that it's just like home cooking. We never have burgers and chips, or things like that, but usually have chicken or beef or good vegetables.

Click here to view Bernadette's Montage by Dani

 

Have you ever been injured?

Yes, I was injured during the Making of the Lord Of The Dance video, when I pulled the ligaments in my feet by landing badly. I was off for a month and a half, but luckily there's been nothing since. We have a very strict stretching session to prevent injuries. Also one of the girls is a fully trained aerobics teacher and we have an aerobics session about every third day.

Do you have a physio traveling with each troupe?

There is a traveling masseuse, but we use the local physios provided at every venue.

Costume

As you were involved with the show from the beginning, did you help to design your costumes?

No, Michael designed all the costumes. He would come up with an idea and ask if we thought we could dance in it, but everything was down to Michael.

Do you like them?

I love mine. They are mainly white and gold and I have a different costume for every dance. We've just had a new dress which you might have seen on the video. It's much more like an Irish dancing costume you would wear for a competition.

How many costumes do you have?

We all have two sets of costumes and they get replaced regularly. The wardrobe staff wash everything everyday and if there's a tear it will be replaced. I had all new costumes for Hyde Park so I still have them.

Troupe I

Have things changed since Michael left the show?

Although he has retired from dancing in the show, Michael is still very, very involved. He is always thinking of something new to add. He was a very hard taskmaster and it is important to him that the standard of the show is kept just as high as it was when he was dancing. He is such a genius and we miss his presence and his charisma. We've worked very hard because we want Michael to be proud of us.

How has Damien managed, taking on Michael's lead role?

He has done really well. He'd had experience playing the lead with Troupe 2, but it was difficult for him to take Michael's place. The troupe and the audience had to adjust. As Damien had just been one of us before, everyone was behind him.

How often does Michael visit your troupe now?

He came to see us in Paris, and spoke to us afterwards to check if we wanted anything and that everything was okay. He was meant to see us in Israel but work commitments meant he couldn't make it. He trusts us enough to work without him.

Did you ever think you would be doing what you are doing?

I had no idea I would get a lead role. Gillian and I just went along to the auditions just hoping to get in. We both went into Lord of the Dance as backline dancers. We'd only seen Michael Flatley in Riverdance and when we had to meet, it was like "Michael Flatley, oh my god!"
After the auditions we went to the rehearsals and were just learning the dances and steps. At this stage, we hadn't been given a storyline. It was very, very difficult to get used to using our hands as well.
One day we all had to dance using our hands, and Gillian and I began to stand out. After two weeks we stepped into our roles as good girl and bad girl and started to arrive early to rehearse and left late. It was all unsaid for a while, but then we were told we were to take the lead roles in the Point in Dublin. We were told it could last a day, a week, a month or maybe even years!

What was the hardest thing to learn?

Making the show was so hard. Grasping the steps, especially those in the Encore, was extremely difficult. Sometimes Michael would suggest things that we just couldn't do. The hardest steps were things like Back clicks and hand clasps at the same time. We did our solos ourselves so we chose things we were confident with, so there were no problems with that.

Did this come as surprise as you were already a World Champion Dancer?

Michael had most of the world champions there, from my age group up, so I could see that they couldn't do the steps either and it wasn't just me. There's a huge difference between competitive and show dancing. There is never a time when it all just stops. There are always extra bits to add in everyday. That's what we love about it.
I'm Dance Captain as well now, which means I'm under pressure to keep everything up to standard. I will ring Maire Duffy every two to three days to report on any injuries, how the dancers are performing, etc. Maire Duffy has the three troupes to look after, that's about 150 dancers.

Who taught you to dance?

I learnt with Dorian Brown from Tippeary. We are all still very close, it was a one on one relationship, that is why I got on so well.

You have achieved so much already. What are you most proud of?

The Hyde Park video. I was very, very happy with that. Going to the Oscars was incredible, too. We met loads of stars like Celine Dion, Madonna, and Jim Carrey.

Touring

What's the best place you've been to so far?

South Africa. It was beautiful and the people were very, very nice. The best place for the show is Ireland and it's especially great for me as I'm Irish. Hyde Park was the best performance.

How do you cope with being constantly on tour?

It's your life and your job. It can be very tiring when you are constantly moving and booking into hotel rooms which then become your home for the next two or three days. You do miss home, but we do five months then go home for two weeks.

Any flexibility for a wedding, etc?

It depends how far away from home you are, but usually there is. I really love traveling and I've been all over the world.

Do you get a chance to go sight-seeing?

At the moment we have a very very busy schedule, so there's not much time to go sight seeing or to sit on the balcony in the sun. Here we are doing 11 shows in 9 days. Next we're off to Jerusalem for 4 shows in 3 days, and in Hyfa, they've added an extra 2 shows.

What is it like performing in Israel?

It's different because we usually do arena shows but here it's more of a theater. The audience are really varied, lots of famous people, but lots of others, too, and of all ages. The tickets were all sold out very quickly. We were apprehensive about how the show would be received, both here and when we went to South Africa. These countries have very different cultures and languages, but it has been amazing. In fact we have been better received than when we went to some places in the UK and US, because the show is just so different here.


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Last updated on August 29, 1999.