I was fifteen when I first met Irene, I wanted to dance very much, and she gave me all her support. Where there’s a will there’s a way, she said. For two years, every Wednesday, I left school early, and ran to the railway station for the Liverpool train, and her classes at IM Marsh College. I travelled with Jon, a twenty-two year old law student – who also danced. Reaching Liverpool, we had a cup of coffee, made with evaporated milk, in the basement café of Lewis’s, then took the bus to Aigburth Vale and the college. After one and a half classes I had to run down the hill for the bus and the last train home. In the baking hot summer of ‘76 we had summer school and danced every day for a week. I was silently in love with Jon, and he confessed one afternoon that he was desperately in love with Irene – she, at 34, seemed very old, and far beyond his reach. It’s funny to think back – such heady, emotional times, all of us taking ourselves so seriously. But from the distance of nearly thirty years it’s Irene and the dancing that I miss; the egg-shaped studio built in a hollow in the fields, the summer light pouring through the long windows, Irene – such a beautiful, elegant dancer. She was a gentle teacher, with a great sense of humour, teasing us, rather than ranting. I still hear the timbre of her voice. We all aspired to look like her – to dance with her ease and flow. Those days when my whole life stretched ahead, she opened a door to the world of dance, and how wonderful it seemed.
Irene is unreachable now – she died of cancer before she reached old age, and anyway, the past is another land, lost forever. The lovely thing about receiving emails from strangers who share a time or person, is that briefly those strands of memory flare into life again, and there’s a powerful sense of presence.