I walk into the plain box that is the main studio bearing a small notebook, a water bottle, and a body trained from age four to classical ballet’s five stylized positions - turned-out hips, port de bras and all. Ignorant of the terminology, elements, rules, of modern dance. Ready to risk moving in unaccustomed ways. Age 68. De-conditioned. Am I nuts? Or am I home? I am a Dancer of the Third Age, captured by this iconic image that hangs on my wall.
It’s taken me 28 years to drive 42 miles to the Dance Exchange, but here I am.
We move out from the opening circle walking randomly, casually pair up for counter-weight stretches, grasp with hands or elbows, pull away. Keep moving, lean on and into one another, form shifting sculptures of three or four. Flock together, following the changing leader, ever shifting to sync with other bodies. Practice not replicating but capturing the essence of a partner’s movement. Preliminaries to creating dance together.
We tell our stories and “found” gestures emerge - a sweep of the arm, a shift in gaze, height, level, or direction. We play with these gestures like words snipped from magazines, and build movement phrases, sequences, experiment with them as solos, duets, chorus. Later, spoken words are layered in. Even later, music.
I am unmoored by the absence of music. Sequence flusters me. Brow furrowed, I ask again: break this down for me. Ever seeking flow and smoothness, I am immersed in this staccato movement all week: break it down, re-member a sequence, work it through. Others waiting for me. Waiting. Waiting.
Still, I am willing to be the only one standing when everyone else drops to the floor, to forgo a jump and instead lift a leg, to drop a movement altogether.
I walk out of the studio at the end of camp with a few scribbles in my notebook, an empty water bottle, and no injuries. Praising.
Limitations have become less encumbrances than shifting opportunities to shape choreography, relationship, life. Secret chords that please: Hallelujah gestures, broken down, broken open, holy.
Sara Eisenberg grapples with honesty and kindness in daily life in Baltimore, where she practices as a healer, herbalist and creative inquirer. Connect with her at www.alifeofpractice.com
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