Pina is the one wearing the stripy trousers and here they are practising at St.Pauls Church, Marylebone, where I photographed them. Pina is eighty-four and is the choreographer and the one who set up the dance troupe about twenty years ago. The dancers are now all over seventy years old and most are in their late seventies, early eighties.The group was originally called ‘Sweet Sixteen Again’, but now they go by the general name of ‘Pina and her Line Dancing Troupe’. During lockdown they practiced every Thursday via zoom (once they got the hang of it !) As lockdown eased and they were allowed to meet up, they wanted to bring some joy and ease to the loneliness the vulnerable felt, who were still self isolating. They decided to dance outside on the Lisson Green Estate and then everyone isolating could watch from their windows. As Pina is eighty-four and the dancing troupe are elderly themselves, they danced with masks on and at a two metre distance from each other. They did this whenever they could, once restriction eased, and would always get dressed up in their outfits below, sometimes wearing the blue or red waistcoat .They love being together and have a wonderful camaraderie and dancing also helped their loneliness and gave them a purpose during lockdown.One of their favourite songs to dance to is Sugar, Sugar and their dancing is based on line dancing. I had a go myself but trying to photograph and master the line dancing techniques didn’t really come together for me ! But it’s good fun. I have spent a year working on my personal photographic lockdown project and I heard about Pina when I raised money for Age UK doing a series of doorstep portraits in the first lockdown. I have met some fascinating people and heard some extraordinary stories this past year and a half of the pandemic.
During these recent periods of enforced isolation, Natasha Durlacher photographed solitary figures and empty space and also focussed on those who were able to bring joy to the vulnerable, who suffered the most at the height of the pandemic. Pina and her troupe were a beacon of hope..
Natasha’s series was shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society International Open Call and received an Honourable Mention in the International Photography Awards Pandemic Series.
Her new book, ‘Together Apart’, is out and ‘Pina And Her Dancing Troupe’ – Won the ‘Portrait of Britain’ award. The above image is to be found in the ‘Portrait of Britain’ book 2021 published by Hoxton Mini Press.