Photo: Mary Laffey Beemsterboer
Photo: Mary Laffey Beemsterboer

Meet the dancer who has been leading Dayton’s Celtic Academy of Irish Dance for three decades

After 30 years of getting Dayton tapping and adding top-notch Celtic dance to Dayton’s St. Patrick's celebrations, it’s about time for some recognition. 

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Mary Laffey Beemsterboer, co-director of the Celtic Academy of Irish Dance, was put into Irish Dance at the age of 5 because her sisters danced. She danced for the Hibernian Irish Dancers, who would become Dayton’s Celtic Academy in 1987. 

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Her young career was competitive and illustrious. She danced in the World Championships in Ireland in 1989. Laffey retired after those championships and assumed ownership, directorship and artistic control of The Celtic Academy. The academy has grown from a school of 12 dancers to more than 140 dancers today. 

“My sister, Laureen Laffey, and I co-direct the school and have worked hard to make the Celtic Academy what it is today,” Laffey said. “I have been married to Dan Beemsterboer for 27 years, and we have a 13-year-old daughter named Mia. Dan is my rock, and I could not have done this without his unending support from the very beginning of taking over the Celtic Academy.”

Laffey is a lifelong Daytonian, Wright State University graduate in elementary education, mother, wife and our Daytonian of the Week. 

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🍀You were 22 when you accepted this position. Did you think you would be where you are today? 

“No, I never dreamed the small school of 12 dancers I took ownership of in March of 1989 would become a school of over 140 dancers receiving Best of Dayton awards, having a fan base, competing and placing at national and world level competitions. I am thankful to the many people that have shared this journey with me and I look forward to all the adventures that are still to come.”

Mary Laffey is our Daytonian of the Week.
Photo: Mary Laffey

 🍀Why Irish dance? 

“I grew up Irish dancing, and it became a part of me. It made me happy to dance, compete and perform, and I became more confident throughout my years of dancing. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to continue to share my love of Irish dance with others.”

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Mary Laffey is our Daytonian of the Week.
Photo: Mary Laffey

“I enjoy the uniqueness of this intricate dance form. Seeing the eyes of your students light up when they realize they did a movement the correct way for the first time is amazing. Their excitement is contagious and their self-confidence grows by leaps and bounds. I love helping children reach their full potential from the goals they have set for themselves.”

🍀What is it like to be part of Dayton's biggest St. Patrick's Day traditions? 

“To be one of Dayton’s St. Patrick’s Day highlights is surreal. The teachers and dancers of the Celtic Academy of Irish Dance work diligently to master our dances and create dances the audience will enjoy. We are very fortunate to have a following that enjoys Irish dance just as much as we do.”

Mary Laffey is our Daytonian of the Week.
Photo: Mary Laffey

🍀What is different about working with youth dancers versus all ages? What part of it has kept you involved for 30 years? 

 “Working with youth dancers enables you to see the learning process from the very beginning all the way through to the highest level each dancer achieves. You see each dancer’s learning style, and this enables you to help them succeed in ways they understand. Their energy, excitement and desire to learn has kept me going for all of these years.” 

Mary Laffey is our Daytonian of the Week
Photo: Mary Laffey

🍀Your dance company has won numerous awards, including’s Best of Dayton 2018 Best Dance Group. What sets your teams apart from the rest? 

“My sister, Laureen, has a wonderful eye when it comes to our competitive ceili (kay-lee) teams. She drills the importance of straight lines, staying centered and being in unison with one another. This creates a smooth and effortlessness about the dance, making it very easy to watch.” 

🍀What are you doing in Dayton when you're not instructing dancers? Some of your favorite Dayton go-to spots? 

 “Sleeping. No seriously, I am usually catching up with my family and friends. My husband and I support our daughter in her sporting events, and we find things to do as a family.”

 “My Dayton go-to-spots are Joe’s Pizzeria, Franco’s, the Dublin Pub, 2nd Street Market, Fairfield Commons mall— I have a teenage daughter— and of course the Celtic Academy of Irish Dance.”