The Times We Lived In

Dance championship in 1988

Photograph: Eddie Kelly

Photograph: Eddie Kelly


Strictly Come Dancing , eat your heart out: anything you can do, we can do better. Flashing feet? Check. Straight backs? Check. Poised, elegant young dancers? For sure.

The picture was taken at the Flora Millar Dublin Dance Championships – at the Amateur Old Time competition, to be precise – which was held at the Artane Beaumont Family Recreation Centre in the spring of 1988.

We got in touch with Flora Millar, who was able to name three of the four dancers. On the left of the photo, Olive Cummins and her partner Terence Leonard; next to them are Sarah Power and her partner, whose first name is Derek but whose surname, alas, has vanished into the mists of memory.

For those who are used to watching ballroom dancing in the lavish setting of a television studio, the functional concrete backdrop of the sports centre, with a basketball hoop just visible on the extreme left of the shot, might come as something of a shock.

The members of the audience, meanwhile, are not all paying attention to the action on the dance floor. Some onlookers are clearly studying the moves with care. Some are directing their gaze elsewhere – possibly to other couples who have yet to dance into the photographer’s line of vision. Still others appear to be ignoring the whole business.

The circular movement in those skirts, however, is so graceful you can almost hear it as a waltz tune. “And, you know,” says the irrepressible Ms Millar, who has now retired as a dance teacher but is still in great demand as a competition judge, “the fashion hasn’t changed very much at all. I’ve just come back from the UK Championships in Bournemouth, where the dresses were very similar. Perhaps a little shorter – Audrey Hepburn length – and with a little less heavy decoration.”

At another competition, in Blackpool, she happened to meet none other than our pictured dancer Sarah Power, whose 10-year-old son was taking part in a competition called Champions of Tomorrow.

Which just goes to show that someone is listening to that Strictly injunction to “Keeeeeep dancing . . .”
Arminta Wallace

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