When she was a little girl Babcia couldn't sit still so she was sent to dance class. She did a bit of ballet but mainly tap and carried on, the star of every show, until she was 15.
Babcia about 6 on the left. What a little dolly! Maybe 15 on the right.
She was an excellent dancer apparently and because her mum, my Big Grandma had also danced as a child it was very much encouraged. Money (well, what little they could spare) and time was lavished on costumes which were usually homemade by Big Grandma and her mum; my great-granny, Little Grandma. Both of the costumes in the photos were made with love by the handy females of the family....clever, weren't they? Even though the family were very poor - didn't have two pennies to scratch their arses with, in the vernacular of my malignant Northern home town - money was always found for Babcia's dance classes. I guess she was a source of pride to them, winning competitions, appearing in shows and so on.....times were hard and God love 'em, they needed something.
Fast forward fifteen years and Babcia had her own daughter (that would be li'l ole porkster me). And what was more natural than sending her to dance class? I started off at Mrs Bradley's and did Ballet, Tap and Acro, which was acrobatics and the bit I loved most - I was always upside down, doing the splits or walking on my hands and was pretty good at it too. The studio was at the top of some stairs and we always started with a kind of warm-up that entailed us doing tap, ball-change; tap, ball-change all around the room to Mr Bradley pounding out 'Walking My Baby Back Home' on the poorly tuned piano. If I ever hear that music it flings me right back to dark winter nights up those rickety stairs.
I went to a class there on a Saturday morning too and I remember a horrible incident that wouldn't happen nowadays - Health and Safety has some good points. We didn't have a barre and had to hold on to the back of a chair to do warm up, including where you kick to the front, side and back from the hip with a straight leg. One big girl (so probably about 11 to my 7 or 8) must have been kicking a bit too mulishly, the chair tipped over, she fell and her knee was dislocated. It looked horrific and the screams from her were just awful. An ambulance was called and when it arrived the paramedics had to manhandle this poor child down the stairs. I remember thinking at the time that she was making a show of herself but with hindsight I see she was just a little girl and for sure she was in agony. Strange the things you remember...
I have a second cousin who is a couple months younger than me and her mum, the aunt of Babcia, wanted Martha to dance too so consequently she followed me from dance class to dance class like a bad credit score (I never stayed anywhere for long). If I was a porkster she was a girl mountain....together we were Pinky and Perky made flesh, our chunky knees, dimpled thighs and straining leotards marking us as different from the sprightly little pixies who made up the rest of the student body. And even at 10 I had enough dignity to realise the teacher's suggestion that Martha and I appear in a duet as Tweedledee and Tweedledum in the annual county-wide Musical Festival was A Very Bad Idea.
Friends, I left with as much dignity as a little round ugly duckling could muster.
Undaunted I enrolled both Red AND Mr Charming in tap and ballet classes. Whilst tidying a cupboard the other day I came across Red's ballet bag with her leotard and stuff in and couldn't believe how small it was. She liked ballet ("good toes! naughty toes!") and Mr Charming tolerated tap (I found his weeny tap shoes too) though the fact that he hated ballet didn't stop him being inveigled into appearing in the Christmas Gala as a robin in a brown leotard and beak. I must find the video of that performance....! By the time Red was 6 or 7 I enrolled her in gymnastics too and within a really short space of time she was moved from a little 'for fun' class into the city squad, training for 12 hours a week. Yep, that's right, kids of 7 and 8 train for 12 hours a week in this country. The problem is, if your child shows any spark of being good at gym they're pounced on and really worked hard....I know because after three years Red had a crushed disc in her back to prove it. I think we're so desperate for sporting success in the UK that we push children too hard and not all can cope with it. Red accepted before I did that she was never going to be good enough to go far as a gymnast (I'm as guilty as all the other pushy moms out there who want something more for themselves than for their child) and gave it up. I don't need to tell you either that Mr Charming is NOT Gene Kelly in-waiting!
Still, the family love affair with dancing continues. Whilst at Babcia's at the weekend my sister-in-law came to visit with my niece and nephew, Lili and Little Baby Jack. Although she doesn't yet go to dance class she loves to try on the tap shoes Babcia bought her and do a routine. This time Babcia put her tappers on too!!!
Although it looks false that is actually Babcia's real leg -
she asked me to make sure I pointed that out
Putting on the shoes seemed to turn Lili into a whirling dervish - a kind of tiny tapping tornado. She's just four and has an amazing imagination...here she is in her magic shoes that won't stop dancing once you put them on (and no, she hasn't seen The Red Shoes).
I only wish I could show you a second film with Lili's face in it....her expressions are an absolute scream, she's putting everything she has into it - confusion, terror, disbelief, exhaustion - I'd forgotten how comical little children can be! But I promised her mum I'd keep her identity a secret. Until she appears on 'You've Been Framed!' that is.
Something tells me this family's dancing days are far from over :)