In contemporary culture, dance for seniors, is often expressed in the past tense; in recollections of a bygone era and in memories of youth. I deeply value these dance histories and I am also keenly interested in contemporary dance practices; reviving, reinventing and reclaiming dance in the present tense as a part of contemporary culture for all people who choose to participate. And so new and exciting projects around the country, just like this one, are ambitiously and courageously harnessing the robust and flexible nature of dance to provide unique opportunities to seniors to express themselves through dance in the present tense.
Contemporary dance in particular is perhaps an unlikely pairing to a group of ‘untrained’ elders but I have found it to work and be deeply affecting. Seniors are already by necessity mindful movers and so they are well suited to somatic practices often a part of contemporary dance. Seniors have epic presence and their bodies are endlessly interesting holding many years of stories – they are able to express and emote in ways younger bodies cannot.
We named the performance Present Tense which relates to the immediate and contemporary nature of performance, but also to the power of performance – the power of being seen on stage, of being valued, respected and acknowledged which are all highly important actions given our current social and political landscape. It has been a privilege for me to work with 12 elders from Cardinia Shire over 20 workshop sessions. Four of the seniors cohort relished the opportunity to perform on stage and others are present in the video projections that comprise part of the performance.
For artists like myself to have the opportunity to create art locally, with for the local community, is an experience that is deeply enriching personally, artistically and culturally. My thanks to Cardinia Shire, Creative Victoria and all supporters who recognise this value.
What we created is a 20 minute contemporary dance work that expresses a physical vocabulary generated by the seniors and crafted by me by way of setting choreographic scores, steps and sequences. The work was presented at the Cardinia Cultural Centre Theatre in November 2019.
This project is proudly supported by Creative Victoria through their Creative Suburbs funding initiative and Cardina Shire Council.
Lead artist/Choreographer/facilitator - Gulsen Ozer
Video art - Vanessa White & Tim Stone
Sound design - Roderick Price