Henry Clay Smith 3d, dance pioneer

Henry C. Smith 3d, left. (Photo from Aikikai of Philadelphia)
Henry C. Smith 3d, left. (Photo from Aikikai of Philadelphia)
Posted: May 24, 2013

Henry Clay Smith 3d, 67, of Gladwyne, a pioneering force in the fusion of dance, theater, mind-body fitness, and martial arts, died Sunday, May 12, while swimming in the Mediterranean Sea off Alanya, Turkey.

Mr. Smith was on the last day of a working trip, and taking a quick dip in a calm, roped-off swimming area when a companion found him floating facedown. Turkish officials said he drowned. Years before, he had undergone heart bypass surgery, his family said.

Mr. Smith was the founder and artistic director of Solaris Dance/Theatre and Video, which he ran out of his home. Solaris acted as the umbrella organization for his Lakota Sioux Indian Dance Theatre and Aikikai of Philadelphia, a dojo.

Within the dojo, Mr. Smith was a respected teacher. He held a Sixth Degree Master Instructor's Black Belt in aikido.

In a 2012 short film called "The Art of Peace," posted on YouTube, he explained that aikido helped to build confidence while making a participant more aware of surroundings.

He also said he believed that aikido balanced aggression with care for the opponent.

Mr. Smith began doing aikido in the summer of 1968 while studying dance at the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. Moving to New York in 1971, Smith joined the New York Aikikai and later taught Aikido at Aikikai of Philadelphia.

"My mission is to maintain and nurture the legacy that has been passed along to me, and create a sense of loyalty, harmony, and camaraderie within the dojo community," he wrote on the Philadelphia Aikikai website.

Mr. Smith initiated several cross-cultural dance-theater and broadcast TV collaborations. They at times included cultural offerings of West Africa, Japan, India, and the Lakota Sioux.

Born and raised in Darby Borough, he lived in Upper Darby before settling in Gladwyne in his parents' former home.

"When it came to family, he was a traditional, sentimental-type person," said his brother, Robert E.

Mr. Smith graduated from Malvern Prep and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in business before attending Edinburgh University in Scotland to earn a master's degree in economics.

When he returned from Europe, he had changed from "a jock" into someone who valued relationships, motion, and grace.

"It was an amazing transformation," his brother said.

He was married to the former Eeva Tuominen. She followed him from Finland to the United States. They were divorced.

Surviving in addition to his brother and former wife, are sons Henry Clay Smith 4th, and Wilson Tanner Smith; his companion, Susan Crofton; and two nephews.

A Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 25, at St. John Vianney Church, 350 Conshohocken State Rd., Gladwyne. Burial will follow in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham.

A visitation is from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 24, at McConaghy Funeral Home, 328 W. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore.

Donations may be made to Aikikai of Philadelphia, 2100 Chestnut St., Philadelphia 19103.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8102 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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