Peter Harding is a seventeen year old student at St. David’s Sixth Form College in Cardiff. In late February 1997, he was successful in being signed up to the chorus line of the very popular Irish Dance Company Riverdance.
Peter’s distiction is that he is the first Welsh person to join the renowned chorus line.
Peter started to learn Irish dancing 8 years ago when he was 10 years old. Jim Smith, himself a Belfastman, tells the story that after an exhibition in Cardiff he was approached by Peter’s grandfather who said his grandson was doing tap dancing and could he start Irish dancing. Peter joined the class. On his mother’s side of the family his Irish roots lie in County Cavan in Ulster. His father, Phillip, and his mother, Bernadette, are rightly very proud of Peter’s achievements. Peter himself is determined to enjoy the experience and to learn from it. He is also very conscious that he has A level exams this year, and will be taking tuition to ensure a good result.
In 1996 Peter went to America, to Boston, and returned with the North American Championship in his age group. This was the first time that it had been gained by a dancer from outside North America.
Peter also has two British titles to his name.
In 1995, in Galway, despite a car crash on the way, Peter came third in his age group in the World Championships. This was the first time a dancer from Wales had brought a World Championship cup back to this country.
In 1996 he was certainly one of the favourites for the World Championship in Dublin. On the night before he pulled a muscle and could not dance. It is fair to say that the disappointment felt in Cardiff and surrounds in south Wales was great.
Jim Smith of Scoil Rinnce Mac Gabhann (The Smith School of Irish Dancing)) said of Peter in 1996: “I remember the first
time I saw Peter dance. I knew immediately that he had a gift. Even before he knew the steps he had all the necessary qualities of making a top dancer – timing, rhythm, carriage and style. His little feet turned out perfectly.”
Jim went on to say how proud he is of Peter, and to wish him every success. Peter has always been a credit to the school.
Among the many displays and exhibitions given, Peter and members of the Smith School of Irish Dancing have appeared on S4C on many occasions. This year Peter organised a set piece for ‘Codi’r To’ (‘Raising the Roof’), a regular S4C spot, and danced with Samba Gales on the same programme.
Recently in Cardiff he gave an exhilirating performance, with Shaun Murray and other class members, at St. David’s Hall on the occasion of the fundraising event for the Archdiocesan Priests’ Training Fund, receiving praise fron young and old alike.
On his last appearance at Jim Smith’s class in St. Sampson’s in Cardiff, Peter helped out with the younger pupils... and indeed with some of the older ones who have come back and rejoined. He was dancing as most people were preparing to leave with their youngsters. We stopped and watched in silence. There was a tangible feeling of pride, tinged with loss.
Everone wishes Peter all the best.