Michelle Thomas – Dancer

Michelle Thomas – 1981 World Disco Dancing Champion

Michelle Thomas hailed from South Africa. In her too short life, she made her mark on the world stage – Literally. She won this competition, which is more accurately called the 1981 World FREESTYLE Dancing Competition. 

Disco was still going in 1981. Travolta, Saturday Night Fever & many spin-offs kept DISCO going, although it was starting to wane in popularity as the 70’s closed. 

Travolta, Saturday Night Fever & many spin-offs kept DISCO going until the 80’s. As the 70’s closed, despite the many remaining DISCO fans, people were starting to look around for something new. Maybe it’s no great surprise that the World Disco Dancing Championships of 1981 were renamed the World Freestyle Dancing Championships. Either way, Michelle participated and WON the championships for South Africa that year.

The ’81 World Freestyle Dancing Championships Clip follows. Michelle Thomas dancer No 22.

Clive James, writing about the dancers and the competition, notes, All (dancers)  favoured the flat foot spin but there were variations in the amount of contortion gone in for, with some dancers just vibrating on the spot like a blender and others, notably Michelle Thomas from South Africa, uncorking prodigies of corporeal plasticity. Michelle could dive backwards and come up smiling before her feet left the ground.” *

1981 Disco Dancing Championships were different to those of previous years **

  • “Disco” was changed to “Freestyle”
  • Doubles as well as individual dancers
  • Sponsor changed from EMI to Trusthouse Forte
  • 1981 was the last Championship to be shown on ITV &
  • Last to feature Chris Grant on voiceover
  • The second year the competition was won by a South African. Godfrey Raseroka won it in 1980 


Michelle Thomas was murdered a few years later by her boyfriend, Steve Lawrence. Cliff Simon says, in his book, Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge, *** that Steve Lawrence, a Durban police officer ended up killing his girlfriend, Michelle Thomas. He tells that Steve was jealous, monitored her every move. In the middle of a rehearsal at the Wildcoast Sun where Michelle was performing, Steve broke into the theater and started yelling at her. He told Michelle if she didn’t come outside with him, he was going to shoot all of the dancers in the Company. (She had forewarned the hotel security that there might be trouble, but they did absolutely nothing to protect her.) He dragged her to the car …..

This lovely young woman should not be remembered for the murder/suicide that took her life, but rather for her life. Cliff Simon says, in the same book (speaking about Michelle),

“She was the sweetest person, and everyone who knew her loved her- Myself included.”


Sources & Credits

Featured Image is Public Domain


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