Portfolio: Robert Ormerod

The Scottish seniors dancing up a storm

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The Independent Culture

"Oh, I don't like doing this," Philip Le Mansois-Field (above) announced as Robert Ormerod asked him to pose still for a static portrait. “Why am I just standing here?” he asked. Well, he was told, do whatever you feel is right. It was an invitation the pensioner wasn’t about to turn down.

“He just started riffing to himself, dancing away,” says Ormerod. “Then somebody came into the room – it had been quite quiet, as it was only me and him  in there – and turned on a record. He just took off, losing himself in the music. He just went for it.”

Le Mansois-Field’s fervour  for all things terpsichorean has served him well through the years: he met his wife on the dancefloor many a decade ago  – a situation that Ormerod  found to be not that unusual.

A native of Aberdeen supplanted to Edinburgh for the past couple of years, the 27-year-old has been trawling the dance halls of the Scottish capital’s community centres, inspired by the characters he’s found there. The principal feeling that grabbed him, he says, “is that they’re not just connecting physically, as in holding hands; they’re making connections on a higher level – relationships that last decades”.

Indeed, although there is  a formality to his shots – from the way these dancers (aged 50-plus) dress to the precision of their movements (“It’s not professional but some of them take it very seriously”), he was heartened to note that there is also a lighter side to the activity: “A few people I asked say they come for the companionship, to have a good natter; there’s tea breaks where they all just gossip.”

But not for long – after  a couple of minutes, they’re up and whirling around again. Which made it tough on Ormerod. “They’re quite big spaces, filled with people, but there wasn’t really any space for me to work.  I pretty much had to dance around them with my tripod in order to avoid them.”

Well, as Mr Le Mansois-Field would no doubt say, you don’t get anywhere by being a wallflower, now, do you?

For more: robertormerod.co.uk