The Vancouver Downtown Eastside Elder Dancers
The elders in this multicultural dance group were people of all abilities living in the Downtown Eastside. The Arts & Health Project in partnership with the Carnegie Centre and Karen Jamieson Dance Society began coordinating the workshops at the Carnegie Centre gym in the fall of 2014, in collaboration with company dancers Mirae Rosner, Hailey McCloskey, Julie Lebel and Lindsey Ridgway. The lead dancers met, practiced, and planned together to develop dance practices that have the power to transform, to bring joy, and to heal. Then they shared and developed their discoveries in the dance workshops. All of these began with deep connection, as participants remained seated, paid attention to breath and connected the weight of their bodies with the pull of gravity. As they slowly began to swing and rock, they further connected with the earth’s magnetic pull and rebound energy, as they discovered new ways to get up and down with grace and ease.
The group went on to collaborative exploration of rhythm as the heartbeat of the earth, through dances drawn from different cultures and traditions and creative improvisations using hands, bodies, and relationships with others. As the dancers invented their own movements, they become leaders through sharing them with the rest of the group. When the dance was done, each workshop ended with tea, cookies, and conversation about the experience.
These simple yet profound workshops focused on both togetherness and individuality. They illustrated the power of dance to heal and bring joy through moving. When we understand and accept our bodies without judgment, as neither right nor wrong, but unique and perfect in and of themselves, then we experience the dancing body.
If you are interested in seniors’ arts programming at Carnegie Community Centre, please contact Gloria Tsui.
Carnegie Community Centre
401 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V6A 2T7
“We speak about using this phrase as a sort of prompt to explore, through improvisation, the question of identity and personal image. The idea is to find ways to explore our multiple identities (social, cultural, political, spiritual, emotional, etc) through an imagistic and energetic body practice."
"Our most important goal for the Elders workshops is to find a sense of playfulness and fun within a practice that requires focus and time. We are building workshops where one can experience oneself through dance and develop a cohesive collaboration over time”