Madame Hadley’s dancing school

I had an email from a very old friend this morning and I do mean very old (sorry Marjorie). We met when we were four years old you see, which was 81 years ago, and we were both pupils at Madame Hadley’s eccentric dancing school in Streatham. So now I’m going to take you all on a wander down a very ancient memory lane. Please indulge me.

In those days lots of ambitious mothers sent their daughters to dancing schools in the hope that they would turn out to be ‘another Shirley Temple’, who was then at the height of her fame. Schools and newspapers cashed in on the idea. There were lots of headlines about Sutton’s little Shirley Temple, or Southend’s, or Streatham’s. Here’s the Streatham group lined up for a publicity shot in 1935. I remember those outfits very well indeed, they were made of blue silk and decorated in sequins and we all thought we were very grand in them, I think the top hats were made of cardboard but it was the romper suits that impressed us and our mothers.

I have to be truthful and admit that I can’t remember Madame Hadley very well. She had a formidable bosom and red nail varnish on her fingers and sometimes wore a very splendid blue silk dress. But I can remember her calling out the steps as she taught us, ‘Shuffle step, shuffle step, shuffle 1, 2, 3, 4, ONE.’ Don’t ask, I’ve no idea what it means now. But I liked Madame Hadley and she certainly knew a lot about publicity and how to get good ‘shots’ for the papers which duly took them up. I particularly like this one of three of her ‘stars’ crossing Streatham High Road with a policeman to hold up the traffic for us. Important or what?  I was the black cat and my partner the white cat was called Betty Mackie. I can’t think how I remember it, but I do. Where are you now Betty?

Here we are again on a flat roof somewhere posing with part of the troop around us. I’ve no idea where it was, probably a block of flats, there are certainly a lot of buildings behind us. I wonder now what happened to them during the Blitz. The outbreak of the war was a mere four years away when those pictures were taken. Most of us left the group when we were evacuated and I don’t know what happened to it afterwards. Everything changed and changed quickly. Such is war.


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