Some years ago I was selected to give a paper at a conference in Berlin, organised by Nanako Nakajima and Gabriele Brandstetter on ‘The Aging Body in Dance’. This emerged from my research as a Fellow of the International Research Centre ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’, at Freie University, Berlin.
My paper discussed the aging, changing body, and how acquired sensory impairments can bring more to our creativity and practice than they take away. I wrote primarily about Silent Rhythm, a Liverpool International Live Art Festival commission at Bluecoats I received with my collaborators dancer/choreographer Denise Armstrong and visual artist Alison Jones. The description of the project is as follows:
15-19 November 2004. Liverpool Biennial Live Art Festival at the Bluecoats Art Centre
Brief description of ‘SILENT RHYTHM’.
This ‘work in progress’ is a fusion of live art and experimental performance practice from a Deaf and Disability perspective. ‘Silent Rhythm’ is a multi-sensory exploration of space, smell, text, and choreography. This collaboration between writer Kaite O’Reilly, dancer Denise Armstrong, and Visual artist Alison Jones is informed by their sensory impairments, using them as a source of inspiration for creativity. Utilizing written and spatial languages- ‘what words look like in the air’- combined with Deaf choreography, harnessing the ‘inner tempo; the silent rhythm’ within an installation. The live art performance transforms, and possibly erases, aspects of the original installation.
The essay also touches on the work of visually-impaired poet Alex Lemon and dramatist Alex Bulmer.
The collection of essays is edited by Nanako Nakajima and Professor Gabriele Brandstetter, and will be published by Routledge on January 26th 2017. Details follow:
What does it mean to be able to move?
The Aging Body in Dance brings together leading scholars and artists from a range of backgrounds to investigate cultural ideas of movement and beauty, expressiveness and agility.
Contributors focus on Euro-American and Japanese attitudes towards aging and performance, including studies of choreographers, dancers and directors from Yvonne Rainer, Martha Graham, Anna Halprin and Roemeo Castellucci to Kazuo Ohno and Kikuo Tomoeda. They draw a fascinating comparison between youth-oriented Western cultures and dance cultures like Japan’s, where aging performers are celebrated as part of the country’s living heritage.
The first cross-cultural study of its kind, The Aging Body in Dance offers a vital resource for scholars and practitioners interested in global dance cultures and their differing responses to the world’s aging population.
Table of Contents
Introduction, Gabriele Brandstetter and Nanako Nakajima
Overview of the Aging Body in Dance, Nanako Nakajima
Section I: The Aging Body in the late 20th century: American Postmodern Dance, German Dance, and Japanese Dance
Yvonne Rainer, The Aching Body in Dance
Ramsay Burt, Yvonne Rainer’s Convalescent Dance: On valuing ordinary, everyday, and unidealised bodily states in the context of the aging body in dance
Johannes Odenthal, Der Tanz ist eine Metapher des Lebens (Dance is a Metaphor of Life)
Tamotsu Watanabe, Flowers Blooming in the Time of Aging
Section II: Alternative Dancability: Dis/Ability and Euro-American Performance
Ann Cooper Albright, The Perverse Satisfaction of Gravity
Jess Curtis, Dancing the Non/Fictional Body
Kaite O’Reilly, SILENT RHYTHM: A Reflection on the aging, changing body, and sensory impairment as a source of creativity and inspiration
Susanne Foellmer, Bodies’ Borderlands: Right in the Middle. Dis/Abilities on Stage
Section III: Aging and Body Politics in Contemporary Dance
Petra Kuppers, Somatic Politics: Community Dance and Aging Dance
Kikuko Toyama, Old, weak, and invalid: dance in inaction
Janice Ross, Dance and Aging: Anna Halprin Dancing Eros at the End of Life
Section IV: Perspectives of Interweaving
Mark Franko, Why are Hands the Last Resort of the Aging Body in Dance? Notes on the Modernist Gesture and the Sublime
Nanako Nakajima, Yoshito Ohno’s Figures of Life
Congratulations to all contributors and to the editors. It is a privilege to be amongst such company.