Review by Richard Coaten
Chaturangan Dance Company, Liverpool
The Bluecoat 22nd February 2013
A performance to welcome people living with dementia and their companions
What was Fleeting Moments?
This family and dementia friendly, heart warming joyous dance and music performance evolved in consultation and collaboration with people living with dementia and their companions. It was an artistic intervention to enhance the health and wellbeing of people in the early stages of dementia and their support network, and to improve their quality of life. There has been series of choreo labs, residencies and consultation and the artistic team has worked with people to create a multi-art form, culturally diverse production at The Bluecoat. The Project was a collaboration between Chaturangan, Bluecoat and Hope University.
How did it go?
Some fleeting and inspiring moments were spent in the company of dancers Bisakha Sarker, Anusha Subramanyam, Fenfen Huang, Mary Pearson, musician and singer Chris Davies and Steve Boyland. Visual artist Noelle Williamson was also present capturing movement and dance using brief sketches and watercolours, resulting in some very special paintings which will go towards an exhibition at a later date I understand. The event began with a welcome by the Chief Executive of the Bluecoat, placing the event in the context of a body of work already carried out, and the pleasure of the organisation in working in partnership with Chaturangan again. This was followed by Bisakha’s welcome (see picture in photo), introducing us to the three short sections of Indian, Chinese and Contemporary dance, set to live music and vocal improvisation.
Bisakha spoke of the importance of a poem ‘Be a person’, gifted by Larry Gardiner, that had inspired the choreography, of the part John Killick had played in the creation of that poem, and of the importance of the umbrella as a prop used in the dancing, especially the piece choreographed for and danced by Fenfen Huang. This was quite mesmerizing and beautiful in its effortless grace. Bisakha suggested that in a metaphorical sense we could think about the umbrella as a form of shelter against whatever ‘weather’ the dementia condition might throw at us, and how we can, through movement and dance play with that idea, finding creative and playful alternatives to frame and ‘dance’ the condition differently.
During the several breaks for tea and coffee and conversation, that helped audience and performer relax and enjoy each other’s company in less formal ways, which was incidentally a great strength of this event, I was asked by an audience member sitting next to me why I thought this production was ‘cutting edge’. Because I said, while keeping high-quality professional multi-cultural and multi-art form performance and practice at the heart of this endeavour, Bisakha is also wanting to blur the unnecessary distinctions in the West between audience and performer; and no more so than when the audience is already marginalised by having a dementia condition and living in a care home. Residents and their staff were enabled to leave the routines of their care home to enter a public space, a performance space, to witness and be a part of this ‘dementia friendly’ event as both audience and participant. As one resident of a care home said to me afterwards: ‘It’s all so different, it made me hold my attention to it’. For this older person and for me it has indeed done what it said on the poster: ‘Fleeting moments to lift our collective spirits…’. Bisakha and all dancers, musicians, singers, participants and fundraisers are to be congratulated for enabling this inspiring and ground-breaking project to once again put the City of Liverpool and the Bluecoat, at the very heart of some of the most innovative and inspiring movement and dance practices with older people, currently taking place in the UK. Long may this continue…building on the unmitigated success of ‘Fleeting Moments’.
Dr Richard Coaten
Dancer & Dance Movement Psychotherapist, Churchill Fellow 2010
South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Editorial Board Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Coordinator, Centre of Excellence in Movement Dance and Dementia
February 25th 2013