'Riverdance' star Flatley seriously ill in hospital

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The Independent Online

Michael Flatley, the choreographer and former Riverdance star, was seriously ill in hospital last night and all performances of his upcoming show have been cancelled.

Flatley, 49, who married his fellow dancer Niamh O'Brien, 32, last month, was said by his aides to be receiving emergency treatment in a London hospital, although they would not disclose the nature of his illness. Flatley's publicist said the star had been receiving treatment in hospital for several days.

It is understood his condition is not related to a cancer scare he suffered in April. Then, Flatley spoke about his diagnosis of facial skin cancer, but insisted that he had been cured.

Flatley's parents, Michael and Eilish, who had spent several weeks in Ireland following the wedding in Cork in October, have returned home to Chicago. They are being kept closely informed of the star's condition. His admission to hospital is not thought to be the result of an accident.

The European tour of his show, Celtic Tiger, was due to start in a few days, but all 20 dates have been cancelled. A statement made on his behalf said: "Celtic Tiger Touring has cancelled all European dates for Celtic Tiger starring Michael Flatley due to serious illness. Michael Flatley remains in hospital and unavailable for comment." It is understood Flatley first attended the hospital two weeks ago.

Father Aidan Troy, who officiated at the wedding of the dancer and Ms O'Brien at a lavish ceremony in Co Cork, said he spoke to Flatley about an illness at the time. Father Troy, parish priest of Holy Cross in north Belfast, said: "I spoke to him about two weeks ago and he was in hospital in London. I asked him at the time how he was and he said, 'Fine, I'll be out in a while'."

Father Troy, a peace campaigner who has been a close friend of Flatley for several years, said he was concerned. "I'm obviously concerned having just been involved in his wedding. Genuinely I'm shocked. Without being unkind, he's not 18. I thought initially it may be exhaustion or stress."

Flatley was born in Chicago in 1958 after his parents emigrated from Ireland in 1947 and settled in the city. Though he was born and raised in the US, he often visited family in Ireland and his mother and grandmother were both award-winning Irish dancers.

He shot to fame in the Irish dance spectacle Riverdance, first performed in the interval of the Eurovision Song Contest, before going on to create his own shows Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames and Celtic Tiger.

He married Ms O'Brien after a whirlwind romance. Ms O'Brien, 32, is a member of Flatley's Celtic Tiger troupe. The couple first met on the set of Riverdance in 1993, but only became a couple earlier this year. Flatley split with his fiancée, Lisa Murphy, at around the same time after almost six years together. In 1986, he married Beata Dziaba, from Poland, at a registry office in Copenhagen. The couple divorced in 1997.

Although flamboyant and often outspoken, there is little doubt about Flatley's dance credentials - in 1975, at the age of 17, he was the first American to win the World Championship for Irish dance. In 1989, he set his first world record for tap dancing speed, at 28 taps per second. In 1999, he was earning £1.6m a week and had his legs insured for $40m (£21m).