Another of the great traditions of Sliabh gCua is the art and skill of dancing, particularly ‘Irish Dancing’ and in decades past all kinds of dancing flourished in the district. Indeed before the ‘Ballroom’ era, the Halfway House Hall was a well known dancing venue. At different times cross road dancing, often using a ‘stage’ or platform was popular in many parts of the district.
However Sliabh gCua is best known for it’s Irish dancing which was cultivated by various teachers, by step dancing competitions at local sports days and feiseanna and by various enthusiasts such as Padraig O’Finnusa who included dancing in the Irish evening classes he taught in the locality in the 1950’s and 60’s.
But probably the family that contributed most to the preservation and popularising of Irish dancing not only in Sliabh gCua but in the wider area of West Waterford, is the Hallahan family starting with Mairead Bean Ui Aileachain and continued up to the present through Monnie Hallahan. Mairead O’Mileadha (as she was known in her earlier career) was a daughter to Padraig O’Mileadha, Feile na nDeise and was an active and enthusiastic teacher of dancing and the violin in the area and she taught the grace and skill of Irish dancing to hundreds of children and young people over her many years of dedication to the teaching of dancing.
The foundations she laid were continued and developed by Monnie Hallahan but the excellence of their dedication and skill only came to full attention when Sliabh gCua set dancers won the first of many All Ireland (Scor) Set Dancing competitions held in Dublin in 1972.
Shortly after the setting up of ‘Scor’ (a winter social activity organised by the GAA) Monnie Hallahan was quick to see these competitions as an ideal outlet for this traditional talent in the area and with the enthusiastic support from people like Tommy Hickey, a team which consisted of Maeve Butler, Margaret Whelan, Michael Hickey and Richard Hickey entered the first competition in 1971. One year later the Sliabh gCua set dancers hit the national headlines when after winning their way through Munster they won their first Senior All-Ireland competition.
The winning team (which was fronted on that occasion by musicians Biddy Nugent, Tom Donoghue and Jim Cliffe) were Breda Hallahan, Peg Dalton, Alice Burke and Winnie Hallinan dancing with Tommy Hickey, John Kearns, Ned Burke and Maurice Dalton.
Their success which was the reward for a tremendous amount of hard work put in by Monnie Hallahan and the whole group, brought a new enthusiasm for dancing and the associated social activity to the district and in the years following.
There were also spin off effects – a new pride in the culture and tradition of the area, a verification that where there is love and enthusiasm for what you do, you can become the best and Sliabh gCua became the best. These wins uplifted the whole community and gave Sliabh gCua people at home and abroad a new pride in their locality and this continues to be the case.
Cairde Sliabh gCua was set up in Dublin in 1972 as a direct result of the success of the dancers and for many years was successful in arranging meetings and social events for Sliabh gCua people living in Dublin.
Just as we now have ‘Riverdance’ and ‘Lord of the dance’ as show stoppers in London and New York, the Sliabh gCua set dancers led the way in the 1970’s and could stop the show when they stepped it out with the Sliabh gCua Set and indeed it is not without significance that a young lady from the district Gillian Norris, granddaughter to Nancy and the late Paddy Kiely from Sleady currently features as lead dancer in ‘Lord of the dance’ now packing them in down under in Australia.
The community are and have reason to be appreciative to the Hallahan family for their role in bringing dancing in Sliabh gCua to a level of National and indeed international recognition.