On Wednesday I spent a day at Middlesex University as a visiting lecturer working with their 1st year dance students, looking at my work with older people in dance and what’s involved in teaching and training people at a later stage in their life.
This is the third year running I’ve taught at Middlesex uni on the topic and I decided to talk to this year’s students in a very different way than previously. I’ve been thinking recently about my practice and work with dance and older people over the past few years. This time I wanted to share something about myself that made an impact on why I do what I do.
I spoke to them about my training years as a dancer and how I was always the older one in the various courses I took when I was training. During my developing years I was alway “reminded” by others of the fact that I was older and that I could not be what I wanted to be. I loved Ballet and wanted to dance as a ballet dancer but my teacher in Sardinia took care to explain that “one becomes a prima ballerina by the age of 16”, of course this immediately put me out of the picture as I was starting at 18. However this did not deter me from wanting to dance and perform.
As I arrived in London I felt very out of touch and what I had learned back home in dance, ballet and jazz were my favourites, was very different here! I decided to take up contemporary dance as I had a feeling that this approach and style was the right style for my body and I wanted to see what was possible as well as enjoying some of the things I saw people doing. Still the stigma of ageing was there and younger dancers were always favoured, getting the jobs often because they could be a lot more physical than I could.
Having got to the point where I felt incredibly discouraged, I resolved to have nothing more to do with dancing. And that would have been that if it were not for some very persistent encouragement from my now husband.
I found myself teaching young people and children and later on older people. The more I heard people’s stories about how much they wanted to dance and saw them having a go, the more I realised how much I wanted to help them achieve their goals while changing the world’s views of ageing and who should be performing.
What I do today will hopefully help people that are struggling to keep going or to simply get started, some who’ve lost hope or who have been listening to the “establishment” and already given up, or others that have put dance and performance off because someone suggested they would be better off doing something else as they were too old to be dancers. I certainly draw inspiration from my students, as they prove time and time again that if you take the first step (get started!) and are willing to do the work, there’s a very high chance of achieving something wonderful.