There are many adults around Bellaghy who will remember attending weekly Irish
Dancing classes in the old GAA Hall, now Lees Garage, and stepping out the ‘threes’
and ‘sevens’ while Mrs Close (Miss Allen) demonstrated the moves, shouted
encouragement and played the accordion, all at the same time.
One of her star pupils was Eugene Smith who under the tutelage of Mrs Close won
two All-Ireland and seven Ulster titles before setting up his own very successful
dance school with classes in Bellaghy, Loup, Newbridge and elsewhere.
Eugene is assisted by his wife Siobhan (musician) and two daughters, Grainne and
Eimear both of whom are themselves dancing champions.
Eugene is regarded as one of the top-most dancing teachers in Ireland and in
recognition of his standing in the world of dancing he was selected to be an
adjudicator at the first World Irish Dancing Championships organised by An
Comhdháil na Múinteoirí le Rincí Gaelacha Teoranta which took place at the City
West Hotel, Dublin in April 2012.
An Comhdháil na Múinteoirí le Rincí Gaelacha Teoranta and An Coimisiún le Rincí
Gaelacha are the two largest Irish dancing organisation with membership across the
world however, they each have very different histories and rules
Unfortunately for members of the Smith School of Dancing, they were unable to
compete at the first An Comhdháil World Championship because Eugene was on the
judging panel. They’ve made up for that since however, by winning no less than four
World titles up to 2015.
In addition to their world titles, dancers from the school have over the years, won 37
All-Ireland and 66 Ulster titles, in solo and figure competitions.
Dancers from the school have gone on to star in the world acclaimed ‘Riverdance’
and ‘Lord of the Dance’ and some have even started their own dance schools.
The Society would like to find out more about the Smith and Allen schools and about
the history of Irish dancing in the area. Can anyone tell us about the dancers from
these schools who have travelled the world with various dance troupes or who have
started their own dancing schools.