The Dance Studio Leeds held a Celebratory Day of Dance for Older People, with two afternoon dance workshops led by Leeds Creative Contemporary Dance, as part of the International Day of Older People celebrations.
The first workshop ‘Dance for People Living with Dementia’ was a dance and movement session led by Kim Glassby and by all accounts a resounding success.
I was fortunate enough to attend the second workshop, a Creative Contemporary session led by Rosemary Spencer, which gave people of all ages the chance to experience their inclusive dance approach.
Rosemary took the opportunity to chat with me about how the event celebrates body wisdom, community and respect for older people.
“It’s about an intergenerational community moving together,” she said. “We’re all older people and they’re us.”
Creative Contemporary Session
Dancers ambled barefoot into Studio 2 – around fifteen women, of all ages, dressed comfortably in t-shirts, sportswear, joggers and sweatpants.
The group included Leeds Creative Contemporary Dance members, dancers of mixed abilities, members of the public and an enthusiastic toddler with mum in tow.
The studio was hot, but the atmosphere was warm and friendly, with a sprung dance floor, Ballet Barres, and full-length mirrors along the left-hand side of the room.
Rosemary gathered the women into a circle and welcomed them to a participatory dance and movement workshop on the theme of seeing.
After a quick warm-up she got them to walk round, make eye contact and turn their walk and gaze into a dance.
The women were enthused and she soon had them dancing in response to each other’s movements.
Eye contact led the dance as dancers opened up their partnership, from duets to groups, and danced with other people.
Rosemary asked the group to imagine a horizon, keep their eyes to that imagined horizon and start to move in simple ways.
She took them on a guided meditation that led each of them from hushed stillness into a natural dance that one participant described as a trance-like experience.
As a young mum held an elegant position upside-down on the floor her child carefully balanced a toy on the back of her head.
Next they had to pick a fixed point in the room – such as an inanimate object – and dance in relation to that before switching focus to a point on someone else’s body.
Rosemary asked the group to pretend they had eyes on different parts of their body and let them lead them around the room.
They incorporated movements with eyes in the palms of their hands, on top of their head, on front of their knees, on the soles of their feet, and all along their spine.
The dancers came to rest with a heightened awareness of the space around them and how they moved within it.
Rosemary sat with the group in a circle.
She outlined the rest of the session and explained how they’d build upon the workshop exercises to share their work and perform their ideas together.
The room bustled as dancers improvised in small groups – it was lovely to see their camaraderie as they experimented and played with ideas.
The dancers split into three groups to work out their routines and get ready to perform.
The groups danced in turn as the others sat with their backs against the full-length mirrors and watched.
Each performance was unique – from witty and dynamic to and poised and choreographed – and the other dancers applauded and responded to their work.
The session ended as everyone joined together in a circle, raised and lowered their arms in time with their breathing, and thanked their bodies for being there for them.
Rosemary said: “It has been a pleasure to dance with you all.”
Some dancers hugged Rosemary and each other before leaving; others stayed to chat after the event.
It occurred to me that we move through time like dancers move through space – always in relation to each other.
I’d like to thank The Dance Studio Leeds, Leeds Creative Contemporary Dance and all the participants who kindly allowed me to sit in on the day.
As someone who lives in his head most of the time it was a joy to witness so many gifted people express themselves through movement and dance.
Originally published by Leeds Older People’s Forum