I have only today learned that there is a conference on in Sydney during this coming week called the Ninth Annual International Arts and Health Conference The Art of Good Health and Well-Being:Mental Health and Resilience Through the Arts
I am sad about this because it is a conference I would like to have attended. It is a day away, Alas my program of other things is too full and there is no time to rearrange anything.
One reason I would like to have attended is to engage in conversation with people who might only see dance and the arts as a kind of health therapy for older people. There is a speaker who is going to talk about training teachers of dance for older people. I really hope the idea is not to just train young people to teach old people and reinforce the dance as therapy alone. it would seem to me to be very important that older people themselves are encouraged and enabled to teach and encourage their peers in the art of dance.
Anyone reading other entries on my page will realise that I am seventy years old and have significant health issues and took up contemporary dance just five years ago. I dance with the Grey Panthers, an over sixties dance troupe that has been run by Tracks Dance Company in the Northern Territory for the past thirty years. Many of the current members of the troupe are in their seventies and some pushing eighty.
I certainly started dancing at 65 for health and well-being reasons but there is very much more to it than that. As an older person I have a voice, I have things to say and I want to do that through my art. Through my dancing and more recently through my choreography for older people.
Unfortunately I think it is too easy to simply see dance as therapy and miss the whole point of the art side of dance. I feel very strongly that older people do have a voice, they do have things to say to each other and to any other audience that has a will to listen. This voice can be expressed through bodily movement and music, through choreography and creative development in physical performance.
Most training programs for teachers of dance target younger people and dance itself is so often seen as a young person’s field. The physicality and movement are seen as more expressive or acceptable through young bodies and hence what is taught caters to these preconceptions which, as venerable as they may be, are not immune to challenge by older people seeking to make their voice heard through their own dance.
For me, the art of well-being is in the art. The health benefits are a by-product of this art, they are not necessarily the main game.
I am a seventy year old artist, a dancer and choreographer and I am working hard to find my voice, a voice that rings truer to old people and to young people who might have the ear of the eye to make of it what they will. I so often hear the mantra that wisdom lies with the old but how often we are told we have it but we are not necessarily given the opportunity to express that wisdon through the art of dance? Are we merely old people or are we people who are merely old?