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Ep 52 – Michael Smith

One of 11 children born to Irish/Canadian immigrants in Boston, Michael Smith began his Irish dance career as a ‘tag along’.  Never officially enrolled in the class, he joined his sisters on Saturdays so they could look after him. Sitting quietly in the back and behaving until class was over, he spent the time watching intently and taking it all in.  Weeks later, at the tender age of 4, Michael marched up to Mary Costello Madden and said he knew the steps.  The days of Michael Smith sitting in the background were over, and the rest is history. 

Michael danced for Mary Madden until traveling to Dundalk to study with Mrs. Matthew and Peather.  There his passion and skill flourished making him among the most talented dancers of his generation. He returned to Boston to great acclaim, and as  Michael pushed his skill level to new heights, the level of dancing in Boston began to climb. 

After years of competitive dancing, in 1976 Michael opened the Smith Houlihan Academy of Irish Dance.. There, alongside wife Noreen Houlihan-Smith, Michael began producing the next generation of great dancers  as his familiar Boston accent could be heard lilting ‘dum de dums’ at many competitions. 

Those dancers won many titles including top place at the World, All-Ireland, North American, Australian, Great Britain, All Scotland, Mid Atlantic and New England Championships for solo, ceili, choreography and dance drama competition: and went on to perform in shows such as Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and Rockin’ Road to Dublin. 26 of Michael’s went on to become TCRG’s, while 7 received their ADCRG certification.  All committed to continuing the legacy and love of Irish Dance that Michael instilled in them, and continuing to promote the integrity and tradition built by CLRG. 

Alongside the accolades received by his dancers, Michael continued to receive recognition for the level of excellence he brought to Irish Dance. His lightning fast feet were seen dancing for the Kennedy Brothers and the Chieftains, as well as with the Trinity Dance Academy in the major motion picture, Backdraft:  He was also the assistance choreographer for the show Dancing on Dangerous Ground. 

He was the Dance Director of the Gaelic Roots Festival, where he developed the first Open Irish Dance Camps in North America, and was later appointed an adjunct Professor of Irish Dance Studies at Boston College from 1997-2003.   

And finally, in his continued effort of giving back to the community of Irish Dance, Michael has worked with and held elected positions with the boards of both IDTANA and IDTANA New England Region for well over 30 years.

Under his term as president in 1991 the first IDTANA scholarship was created.  

He continues to hold elected seats with IDTANA and IDTANE and works with his colleagues to ensure the culture and integrity of Irish dance is preserved and protected, and that the directives of An Coimisiun are upheld.

Since the early days sitting in the back of the class, Irish Dance not only holds a special place, but is a fundamental part of who he is. Michael met his wife through Irish dance and together they built a family and a school to share their love.  Both of their children have achieved tremendous success through dancing as well as enriched their own lives with friendships and experiences that far surpass the titles achieved. 

Irish Dance has inspired Michael Smith to achieve great things, and in return he has bestowed the same and left a mark for many to follow. 

There is a Greek proverb, “A society grows great when men plant trees whose shade they will never enjoy”

While Michael continues to enjoy each new adventure that Irish Dance brings his way, we appreciate how he extends himself to dancers and colleagues alike. We are  grateful that Irish dance continues to flourish due to all the seeds he has planted that will be enjoyed for many years to come. 

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