The Riverdance star's mentor, Irish dance teacher Dennis Dennehy, passed away on 6 January (13) at the age of 73.
Flatley was taught at the Dennehy School of Irish Dance in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois and he has credited the dance master with giving him the skills he needed to launch his hugely successful touring shows.
He tells the Chicago Sun-Times, ""Without Dennis, many people, like myself, would have never had a chance to learn this beautiful art form. His hard work and determination was legendary. And his true competitive spirit was evident in the number of champions he produced. It is a credit to him that he built the finest Irish dance school in Chicago.""
Dennehy's son, also called Dennis, says of his father's most famous student, ""He thought Michael was a bit too old (when he started dancing at the age of 11). My dad, as soon as he saw him dance the first time, he knew he was special.""