The times we lived in
Happy feet Published June 26th, 1984 Photograph by Peter Thursfield
Life is a difficult business. And when the chips are down – or the curtain is about to go up – we all react differently.
Before it ever began, the year 1984 had a bad reputation thanks to George Orwell’s dystopian novel. It predicted a world in which uncaring capitalist superstates jostle for power while an increasingly devastated populace is cowed by ubiquitous posters bearing the caption “Big Brother Is Watching You”, and monitored – both in public and in private – by an instrument known as the telescreen.
Well, thank goodness that never came to pass, eh?
In real life 1984 turned out to be just another year, strewn with its fair share of random delights and disasters. One of the delights was the annual show given by the tiny dancers of the Irish National College of Dance at the Oscar Theatre in Dublin. But by the look of this backstage shot, taken as four of the performers get ready for their big night, the evening’s success was not a foregone conclusion.
There appears to be a serious discussion about – not surprising, really, in a dance show – something to do with feet. The joy of the picture is its sense of fleeting intimacy. The camera takes us right into the scene, closer even than the woman – a mother? a teacher? – who is hunkered down in front of her young charges.
The dancers themselves are a set of variations on the theme of youthful intensity.
On the left of the four, a fairy-like blonde figure gazes coolly at the kerfuffle in a “glad it’s not me” sort of way.
The girl on the right looks cross, or maybe baffled.
But it’s the two in the centre of the picture who grab our attention. One with foot up, one with foot down. One with hair up, one with hair down. One as serious as a George Orwell novel, the other transported by delighted laughter as she twists her foot into the most pliable of ballet poses.
There’s a lesson in that somewhere as we head, with trepidation, into 2013. But we’ll settle for an “awwww”.