The Peter Smith School of Irish Dance has had a presence in the Morris area for decades, most recently at St. Virgils Parish in Morris Plains.
The school holds step-dancing classes for beginners through championship level. Step dancing, which is generally characterized by a stiff upper body and quick, precise movements of the feet, may be performed solo or in groups.
Students ranging in age from 7 to 26 years old have been stepping their way into the limelight in recent weeks at talent shows, competitions, fundraisers, special performances and Saint Patrick's Day Parades. The dancers, male and female, come from all over New Jersey. Not all are Irish but all share a passion for traditional Irish Step Dancing. The school has had several dancers go on to perform in shows such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Two students are North American Champions: Sarah Oldam of Clinton is the Girls Under 15 Champion and Kate Kaneko of Somerville is the Girls Under 17 Champion.
Instructor Deidre Garie, who has been dancing since the age of eight, talked about how Irish step-dancing has influenced her life. "My parents, John and Theresa Barry, emigrated from County Cork, Ireland in 1957," she said. "To instill our Irish heritage, as well as to stay in touch with people from "home," my sister Anne and I were taken to Irish step dance lessons. We loved Peter (Peter Smith, the school founder) and we loved to dance. Dancing with the Peter Smith School enabled us to travel and compete all over the United States and Ireland. We competed at the World Championships in Ireland three times."
The family tradition continues, Garie said. "Our children have all danced with the Peter Smith School...they too have traveled extensively and danced on prestigious stages such as Carnegie Hall, NJPAC, PNC Arts Center and other places."