Tuesday, July 28, 2009

TRIBUTE: Eugenia T. Smith (1942—2009)

Eugenia T. Smith, a Polish institution in the Buffalo/Western New York area was involved in dance for more than 50 years.

Active in the Polish community, she was the founder and director of the Krakowiacy Polish Folk Dancers, which performed at two International Festivals in Poland, at local festivals, Walt Disney World and for President Ronald Reagan.

Born Eugenia Zastempowski in Buffalo, the West Seneca resident graduated from Villa Maria Academy and received a bachelor’s degree in education from Buffalo State College.

The daughter of a dancer, Eugenia began teaching ballet, tap and jazz in the basement of her family’s home when she was 14.

Eugenia’s Dance Studios, the school she founded and owned for 53 years, has an enrollment of almost 400 students. Several of her students went on to careers as professional dancers and entertainers and include a Tony Award winner and members of the Radio City Rockettes.

Known as “Miss Genie” to the thousands who attended her dance studios in Buffalo, Cheektowaga, West Seneca and Orchard Park, she incorporated Polish folk dance as part of her school’s curriculum alongside Ballet, Tap and Jazz and Lyrical styles.

She was a lifetime member of Dance Masters of America and Dance Educators of America. With her school’s company Talent Express, Eugenia received many awards for her choreography at national dance conventions. She was inducted into the Western New York Dance Hall of Fame in 2001.