Thomas and Jessie were in fact married at the Temperance Hall (which would later become known as the Crusoe Hall) in 1929. Their daughter - full name Isobel Davina Watson Ballingall - was born the following year and the family lived just a stone's throw away from the hall on the west side of Hillhead Street. Ida first took up dancing at the age of four. As a youngster she learned ballet, tap and Highland dancing at a class in Anstruther. Newspaper archives from the 1930s show that even as a 7 or 8 year old, Ida had the skill and confidence to perform in public. The example below from the 17 February 1938 Dundee Courier notes a dance performance for the Largo W.R.I..
Her interest in, and talent for, dancing led to a three year course at Madame Ada's School of Dancing in Edinburgh. This qualified Ida to become a teacher of dance herself. In 1954, the opening announcement for the Robinson Crusoe School of Dancing appeared in the Leven Mail (25 August, below). Now a Member of the British Ballet Organisation, Associate of the United Kingdom Alliance (of dance, founded in 1902) and Professional Teacher of Dancing, Ida was fully qualified to teach a wide range of classes, some of which are listed on the notice below. Further details of classes were available from Keilside Bakery, where Ida was now living with her widowed mother. The venue for the classes was of course the Robinson Crusoe Club Hall - a place so well known to Ida and her family.
Over time the Dance School also offered classes in other towns, including St Andrews and Leuchars. In addition to teaching dancing, Ida was a well-known all round entertainer - singing, acting, playing piano and the accordion, as well as dancing, all over Fife and beyond. Below is an advert for the 1955 Leven Warden's Party where she led a party of 20 artistes. She was an active member of the Leven Amateur Musical Association.
From the very beginning, the Robinson Crusoe School of Dancing put on regular shows, displays and award ceremonies - opportunities for pupils to showcase their skills and entertain their parents, friends and community. In 1955 a 'Showtime' dancing display was put on in the Montrave Hall with all funds raised going to the Fife Society for the Blind. The above photograph may have been taken at this event (or a similar repeat performance) as the letters 'O W T' are likely to be part of a 'Showtime' sign.
Bright and colourful costumes were always an important part of these events - the result of many hours of hard work by the mothers and grandmothers of the performers. Many of the routines were set to classic tunes from theatre and cinema. Examples from my memory include those shown below - The Irish Washerwoman, Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah and The Wedding of the Painted Doll.
The Wedding of the Painted Doll was brought to life in 1981, at the Centre in Leven, shown in the photograph below. Dance pupils took on roles such as the bride, groom, bridesmaid, preacher man, photographer and the toys (who were wedding guests). A newspaper clipping from this event is also shown below, as is a piece on presentation of awards. Exam success results from the Dance School were another regular feature in the local papers for many a decade.
Ida Ballingall inspired many pupils to go onto a career in dance themselves, both as teachers and as professional dancers. She kept in touch with many of them and hugely enjoyed hearing about their achievements and their travels around the world. Alongside her long teaching career, Ida entertained at many functions and weddings with her dance band. She also continued to travel around Scotland as an examiner into the early 2000s. Ida's life was filled with music and dance until she sadly passed away in 2010, aged 80. She will long be fondly remembered by the hundreds of young people that she taught to dance and those that she entertained over many decades.
With many thanks to Craig Stirrat for the photographs of Ida playing the accordion and hosting 'Showtime'.