At 24 years of age, Bernadette Mary Flynn has had many achievements most Irish dancers can only dream of. She was born August 1,1979 to the parent of Andy and Mary Flynn. Her parents own a pub which is also bed and breakfast in her hometown of Nenagh (pronounced NE-Na) Tipperary, c.o. Ireland. Their pub is called Andy Flynn’s. She lives a two-minute walk from a castle in Nenagh. Bernadette has quite a large family. She has an older brother and 3 sisters two, of which are twins. Her brother’s name is Andrew, her sister’s name is Elaine, and the twins’ names are Catiriona and Maria. Catiriona and Maria are finishing there last year of secondary school. Her family has been very supportive of her dancing. She has said to miss them often but has no plans on leaving Lord of the Dance behind.
Bernadette went to school at St. Mary's Secondary School in Ireland. While her classmates were busy preparing for end of the year exams in their last year before Leaving Certificate (graduation), Bernadette is savoring the sweet success of a dream come true as leading lady in Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. She has absolutely no regrets about leaving her school life behind saying, “This is what I’ve always wanted to do, it’s a dream come true for any Irish dancer.” She also said about school "I don't know if I could ever go back to school." But how many young teenagers would? After you’ve dazzled audiences throughout the world, captivated Hollywood stars on Oscars night and shared the stage with the King of Dance himself, it would be very hard to slip into school uniform and turn up for class. Before Lord of the Dance, she attended Browne Academy of Dance starting at the age of 4 and she’s ‘never looked back ’. Dorian Browne taught her Irish dancing and it was always a one on one relationship that is why she got on so well. This means she has been dancing for about fifteen years. They’d do classes during the week then on weekends compete at a feis (Fesh). Her sister Elaine used to tutor her in Irish dance in the ‘early years.’ “It takes a lot of dedication,” Bernadette said.
Among her competitive achievements, she has won 6 world titles and 7 All-Irelands and has traveled the world doing so. She came in first in the 1996 World Irish dancing companionships. She is recently Saoirse (pronounced Sar-sha) the Irish Colleen in Lord of the Dance. Saoirse is Gaelic (the Irish language) means freedom. Other than the Lord of the Dance and the Feet of Flames videos, Bernadette can be seen in two of Olive Hurley’s instructional videos. The names of these videos are the twenty-fifth Anniversary World Championship home video and Olive Hurley’s instructional video, Irish dancing step by step.
When auditioning for Lord of the Dance the dancers recall being confused when asked to abandon their rigid arms at the side concept. They danced eight bars of music and had to move their arms freely. Everyone’s reaction was like a puzzled “what?” they just didn’t know what to do. Lord of the Dance was created in the run down, beat up FSFX hall in Dublin, Ireland. Michael couldn’t afford anything else and this was practically free to rent. It was cold miserable, it had cockroaches and cobwebs, but they loved it. They all worked hard then went out for drinks at the pub afterwards and discussed the days work. After six months of hard work and rehearsal Lord of the Dance opened July 2, 1996 in the Point Dublin Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. Following a runway of success they added thirteen sold out performances of Lord of the Dance in Radio City Music Hall. You know you’ve made it once you’ve performed there. Bernadette’s dream came spectacularly true as she and her young cast mates went on to wow and estimated worldwide audience of one billion viewers with their fancy footwork during the Academy Awards extravaganza in Los Angeles. When the president of Ireland visited Nenagh, Bernadette danced for her. It was called Glor na nGael. Bernadette said about the show Feet of Flames, “There’s new numbers, new people, new everything, and its really exciting but really nerve racking at the same time.” Feet of Flames opened on July 25, 1998 at the Route of Kings theatre in London. After opening night Bernadette said, she’s never been so nervous. This was Michael Flatley farewell performance with Lord of the Dance and his troupe.
“I think Bernadette Flynn and Gillian Norris are probably the two finest female dancers in the world, but in totally different way. Bernadette is very sensual she’s the epitany of elegance really, there’s something about her, her whole persona, her whole energy that just says class. And just the way she moves, no one else in the world can move like her, I knew it from the first time I saw her dance.” Michael said about her. “Dancing with Bernadette is like dancing with air, you don’t have to look to see where she is you can feel her.” “ Bernadette does a new dance called Saoirse. She doesn’t really look for the attention and by not doing that everyone comes to her. That’s just her energy. And I just love that new costume she wears it’s fantastic.” Bernadette also has high praise for the Lord of the Dance: “Michael is an amazing dance partner and one of the best dancers ever to perform on stage. He is so natural and in control, just incredible to watch.” “The first time I ever met Michael Flatley he was like a god really.” She said the troupe were all into American football, which she cared nothing about and was tired of hearing about it. When talking about why her hair is different during performances then after she said that was because she wore the wig because she just didn't feel like washing it all! Are they tired after shows and practice? “ Where too tired at night,” said Bernadette. “There’s not to much time after rehearsal, but then we just go home and go to bed,” added Gillian Norris, Bernadette’s equally talented dance partner. Did you know then that you where going to make Irish dancing your life? “ Well I thought then, that it was always going to be my life I had a great passion of it,” Bernadette said in an interview. They have a rigorous schedule. “A day be like, we’d get up about twelve, if were not rehearsing earlier in the morning. Then we’d have diner. Then we’d be in about four o’clock to go over the routine for about 2 hours, then we start makeup hair and the show then, but it’s always very exciting,” Michael added, “Oh yeah an hour of makeup.” They stretch everyday so then don’t occur injury, which is about a 20 minute stretch before and after every show. She is right handed and enjoys signing many autographs for her fans after her shows. Though sometimes she recalls she just to tired to move and simply can’t but she’ll always try.
According to her sister in Ireland, however, Bernadette's success hasn't changed her in the slightest, an amiable fact given the young dancer's meteoric rise to stardom and the show biz lifestyle she and her fellow dancers have become accustomed to. She said, " this is taking Irish dancing to a new level". On Bernadette’s birthday they had a show at the Rosemount theatre in Chicago, IL, Michael gave Bernadette a dozen pink roses and carried her off stage after everything was over. Bernadette has achieved the role of Dance Captain, also staying Saoirse and occasionally switching to a chorus member. Bernadette has stayed with troupe 1 (which is the original troupe, featured on the video) from the beginning, even after her friend Gillian left for troupe 2. The current Lord of the Dance troupe 1 tour stars no other then Damien O'Kane as the Lord of the Dance.
Bernadette did a brief run with the US & European tour of Feet of Flames as Swan. She also was seen in Florida at Disneyland performing in 2000 at Epcot.
Bernadette Flynn also delivers a powerful and emotional performance as the Irish Colleen, Saorise. Her fascinating portrayal of the Lord of the Dance’s lover leaves the audience spellbound. She expresses both her love for him and her jealousy towards the evil temptress, Morrighan, through flawless and awe-inspiring dance movements.
It is easy to see why she has won six World Dance Championships, in addition to the All-Ireland, All-American and British Championships. Her overwhelming talent and her love for her chosen career is obvious when one watches her dance.
Bernadette has recently become engaged to fellow Lord of the Dance mate Damien O'Kane. He popped the question July 3rd 2003 in London. A very excited and unsuspecting Bernadette said yes immediately. They plan to get married Christmas time of 2004 or early 2005.
It was the second of July at the Point Theater Dublin Bernadette got to finally show the audience, the world her beauty and grace that will be held on video forever in the heart of those that love and admire her.