afterthoughts on the conference
Everyone asked for the words of Misoshi's song. See here.
ON MARKS OF TIME CONFERENCE – JAN 2007
To counter this, where programmes of exercise, sitting/dance/exercise movements, reminiscence work, music and many other activities take place life is not only enhanced but these are are found to have beneficial effects upon patients’ health, both mental and physical.
The conference at Liverpool Hope University provided a space where this subject, among others, could be discussed, where academics and practioners in the social sciences, arts, and health could explore ways in which to help and enrich lives in a society which sidelines ageing, but which will increasingly have to address the topics of the conference. The concept was brave and innovative, open and informative, culturally diverse and artistically rich. I welcomed the opportunity of participating in the two-day event which brought together diverse skills and experience, and congratulate and thank the organisers, The Aspire Trust, Bisakha Sarker and Chaturangan, Diane Amas with Freedom in Dance, and Liverpool Hope University.
Carol Taylor Bruce
I was so glad to be able to attend after Diane Amans, my dear friend for over 25 years, told me about it before Christmas, and for High Peak Community Arts in New Mills to make it possible for me to go. I came away with my head buzzing with ideas.
It was delightful to see you dance again, as I had seen you perform in the autumn at Diane's event at The Studio in the Lowry Centre in Salford, where your slot was, for me, the highlight of the occasion.
The weekend has encouraged me to go forward with ideas I was working on last year for delivering, through High Peak Community Arts, a programme of sessions for old/sick people in nursing and care homes, and hospices, to enrich lives and if possible to help them face each day with a little joy. I was very pleased to meet Francois who chaired your event so inclusively and with such care and whose organisation, Arts Council East Midlands, funds High Peak Community Arts.
It meant a lot to me when you said that you could perhaps help initially and I have given it some thought. I wonder whether you could consider a short dance performance with a little poetry, to a small audience of day patients (perhaps 10 or 12) at Blythe House, High Peak Day Hospice in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, about 14 miles south of Stockport. Occasionally they have a talk or performance and the people who attend may come in just once or twice a week for complementary therapies and arts activities, such as painting, and a change of environment from their regular medical treatments in hospitals from which they are mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted. You kindly said that it may be possible for you to come, and I know how much it would mean to people there at a crucial time in their illness. If you could come, Tuesday or Thursday afternoons are the times when the visitor/patients are available, in a pleasant and light lounge space, overlooking garden.
The staff at Blythe House are dedicated and exceptionally kind and imaginative in their caring for others and the atmosphere is calm, good and positive The Hospice takes patients who have different conditions of a long-term nature. My daughter, Kate, who has a neurological illness, has been attending there two days a week for 2 years now and I know it makes a difference to her life which is spent in a nursing home.
When I came home from the conference I called on Kate at the nursing home and told her about the two days, and read her the poem you gave us about the woman with the old and new pots, and she smiled so much. I do hope that asking you to perform at the Hospice is not an imposition on you as I know that it is quite a long way from your home.
I have spoken with the Day-care Sister, Margaret Walker, at Blythe House, and she would be delighted if you could come. The telephone number is 01298-815388.
Thank you again for the conference and I am sure its effects will be far-reaching in improving lives and health.
I look forward to hearing from you.
With all best wishes
Carol Taylor Bruce
High Peak Community Arts.
Thank you so much for inviting us to take part at the conference, we all felt very priviledged to be part of such a vibrant whole. I am sure that this wekend will point the way to future events and your own solo will remain as the potent image of the two days
thank-you so much Judy
From: Joanne Cone
To all those who organised Marks of Time' can I thank you. I had a wonderful 2 days of inspiration, joy and learning at an extremely well organised and balanced event. As a dance artist it can sometimes be an isolating creative world, complete with my own inconfidences. It was so fantastic to come away with a sense of 'yes I am doing this right!' and ' there are others out there who feel as passionate as I do about my practice!' Please use this feedback in any way you need to, to help more events like this happen in the future, and the development of dance for older people to keep growing.
Joanne Cone (West Sussex Independent Dance Artist)
From: Ruth Price
From: Chitra Sundaram
As I wrote Sanjeevini, you must be euphoric with the success of the conference. I did not realise how many people you had by your side, earned over years of friendship and committed engagement with dance. It was a soul-satisfying kind of get-togetehr and the the standing ovation for your story of the new and old pots said it all. Never saw a more spontaneous resonance for an idea that will remain with me.
Also, as i mentioned publicly, I thank you, again, for the invitation to perform a piece and the opportunity to speak and listen to so many stories - a splendid atmosphere of generosity of spirit (you set the tone), as Ken put it, to do both. I came back positively filled with a Brightess of Being! THANK YOU!
Am going to visit my parents in India now, in a short window till month end. Have replied Nick that I can do whatever I need to for conference follow up in Feb.
Rest well... you have more than earned it. My knees and back aren't hurting yet and they will, as will your body ache tomorrow and the day after... when you have a moment to notice! Congrats also to Sri - lovely, smart young woman you have there, and wht an exposure for her to hear from from so many what she has heard or knows from you - this will make a difference as she gets to craft policy, in time. Will get her feedback on all when I return.
Congrats! and Thanks again...
From: Ken Bartlett
I've been telling everybody how fantastic it was. A true demonstration of the Common Wealth of dance. The way all the dancers and dances gave AND TOOOK AND SHARED WITH EACH OTHER WAS REMARKABLE. I WAS VERY PLEASED THAT THE DANCERS FROM THE COMMUNITY COMPANIES STAYED WITH US THROUGHOUT the conference as they brought a real embodiment of what community dance is all about to the event.
Thank you, thank you, thank you and congratulations for organising Marks of Time and taking us to the next level.
See you at the festival
From: Tim Tubbs
Dear Bisakha & Nick
Before any more water
passes under the bridge, I wanted to email and offer a heartfelt thank-you
for last week's MARKS IN TIME conference in Liverpool, which I would not
have missed for the world. Many thanks for organising everything so well,
for making us all so very welcome, and for opening up a sharing like that
of an important aspect of our work.
I have returned the feedback forms, but they are very formal, so may I offer some feedback here?
Inspirational and affirming are the two words that come to mind immediately. The overall atmosphere of the event was so welcoming, so inclusive, and so positive. It was a real pleasure to meet so many new people, to be in the North West, at such an interesting time, as Liverpool gears up towards the 2008 Capital of Culture. (Good, as always, to network with familiar faces, too!).
The venue was terrific in terms of atmosphere and welcome - and the new Hope University Cornerstone building is splendid. I know it was a tad awkward, having all those stairs, and that ancillary spaces were limited, in some respects (eg theatre capacity) and there certainly some hitches with acoustics and sound, but, the conference was so very obviously welcome (Virginia Taylor, Bill Chambers), that we must be grateful for a valuable partner right in the centre of the city.
Nick, your Marks in Time conference team were so welcoming, too. A really nice group of people - especially Maria!
I was impressed
Tim Tubbs, Director
Just a quick note to say - Congratulations and Thanks for Marks of Time. It was a very successful and well balanced event - a view shared by the sector. I look forward to receiving the final evaluation. Thank you for accommodating my observer role. I have already fed back to Director of Performing Arts and the Performing Arts Department. It was particularly useful to inform my view of any future related funding applications. It also further convinced me of something that I have suspected for 3 years - that you are a truly inspired and generous artist that the North West is so lucky to have and that you will not be stopped or slowed in your efforts to achieve the best quality. It was your artistic leadership of Marks of Time which created a dynamic in the region that we don't see enough of. I was brought to tears (shhh, don't tell anyone) after your performance, standing ovation and gift to the audience - a spiritually beautiful moment!
I hope you managed to get some rest. Unfortunately, I didn't have the stamina for the last couple of hours on Saturday and left without having the chance to say again - Congratulations and Thanks to you and your team!
With best wishes
From: Hannah Lefeuvre
I’ve just spent the last two days in Liverpool, at Marks of Time, a conference devoted to the ageing dancer. I don’t want to call it a conference, it’s too formal and doesn’t do justice to the incredible two days we experienced. I like Eric Foxley’s abbreviation to MOT and its association with repairing old vehicles. It gives a sense of enabling journeying to continue, so we’ll adopt that for now.
Each journey has its own route and direction. This is my journey through MOT.
MOT opened with a gift from Bisaka Sarker, who asked God to help us dance together and set the tone for what would be an enlightening and inspiring journey.
Diane Amans demonstrated ‘Brightness of Being’ (a doctor’s own definition of health), in herself and her dancers. This quickly became the conference catchphrase and oozed into delegates, particularly in the dance workshops. We were later reminded of ‘lightness of being’ and what about ‘heaviness of being?’ (Chitra Sunderam)
So what were the highlights, the milestones?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Bisaka Saker and her exquisitely loving, gentle and light piece.
Bisaka shone in her integrity and generosity of performance, and I enjoyed her ‘realness’, a moment to tuck in her sari, to fix her hair. Afterwards, we heard that she had been nervous of dancing at her age, incredible that such an accomplished and respected performer should have such concerns.
Tears streamed and ran into rivers, then into waterfalls, like the poem. Until that point in the two days, I had heard many questions raised, complaints about lack of recognition, lack of funding, testimonies and recognition of the power of the older dancer and dance with older people and references to incredible performers. All fascinating and informative, but I was still searching to reach the core of what we were doing and to find ways of moving it forward. Bisakha’s piece, The Two Pots encompassed love, anxiety, generosity, authenticity, brightness, lightness and heaviness of being and for me, put all our discussions into perspective. I was most moved by her attitude to death, something that had little reference over the two days. I wondered if our Western fear of death and strive for perfection contributes to an ageist society and fear of ageing.
On Saturday evening I arrived home to news that an elderly friend had passed away that morning. I knew the time had arrived, and this perhaps explained my reaction to Bisakha’s piece. Aware that our friend was in her last hours, I wanted to be with her in Somerset, but knew that MOT was the right journey. Like Bisakha, this woman had incredible generosity and positive spirit. She had ‘lightness of being’ and will now continue her new journey.
On Sunday, I returned to the idea of lightness and heaviness of being. Lightness seemed simple: lightness of the senses – sounds, sights, smells, touch, texture, tastes; and lightness of thoughts, feeling and words - often found in older people. As I journeyed through the muddy Somerset fields appreciating the longer, lighter days, my senses were enhanced and I enjoyed the stillness and simplicity. I thought of the beauty of pace, pauses and stillness in the older dancer and compared it to the space shaped by Henry Moore’s sculptures, the silences between musical notes (particularly in non-western music) and the pauses in theatre text and space between performers. I was reminded of Milan Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I hadn’t found time to complete (due to a heavy schedule). I returned to the first few pages…
“The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfilment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth the more real and trueful they become.”
1995, p 4-5
Just as we had been asked at MOT to identify old things that we found beautiful (easy – trees, photos, antiques, buildings...) I searched for examples of beauty in heaviness, and struggled. I think it relates to depth of thought, depth in age and beauty in intense experiences. Things that at 25, perhaps I can’t fully appreciate.
I went to the dictionary for help (a technique of Donald Hutera) and fell upon ‘highlight’. I didn’t want to look at heavy today, instead I wanted to relish the highlights of MOT.
Our journey to Liverpool was traumatic, we drove around the city for 2 ½ hours trying to find our accommodation. I asked myself why we were in this situation, what was I meant to take from this? On reflection, I took my colleague’s unfailing appreciation for the experience of a new city and its wonderful architecture. At every junction, roundabout and dual carriageway she would comment, “Wow! Look at these buildings, look at this architecture!” It was indeed beautiful amongst the fatigue, hunger and desperation. I wonder if I experienced ‘heaviness of being?’
A little self-indulgent and tangential now, I’d like to share an experience that I think relates to this idea of ‘lightness of being’ and sense of journey.
I recently visited a healer and undertook a 3-hour meditative ‘journey’, where I was taken inside my soul to face any demons, forgive anything or anyone that needed forgiving and find inner peace. The journey had been designed by an American healer who had cured her own cancer by going on such a journey and forgiving her mother. Before the session I was warned that I might weep and uncover distressing experiences that had been blocked, the tissues were ready and I was assured that anything I divulged would be in confidence.
Each journey is different, and if you ever decide to go on such a journey, I won’t ruin your experience by detailing what happened on my journey.
My healer was overjoyed when the journey finished. She had never experienced such joy in a journey, not a hint of bitterness or negative feeling. She wanted to know my secret.
I sleepily replied, “It’s dancing, dancing is my healer. If I didn’t have dance in my life I would be a completely different person. I have been very lucky and that’s why I do what I do.”
If ageing begins at conception (Jabadao, 2003), then we are all ageing dancers. I am most interested in souls, regardless of age or any other category. But at 25, I have less experience than a 95 year old dancer (unless you believe in re-incarnation) and I want to learn from my elders. Yes, I feel my age, and I’m very happy to be this age, but look forward to my continued maturity.
Our three-year Time to Move dance project at Take Art uses the theme of roads, journeys, pathways, milestones and crossroads, stemming from the National Service Framework (NSF) for Older People’s eight standards. Under standard six, the NSF identify two approaches to falls prevention:
1. “A community approach, which involves keeping streets and pavements clear and in good repair, making homes safer and educating older people on how to avoid risk in the home.”
2. “An individual approach to preventing falls injury by identifying those most at risk of falling and fracturing and referring them to appropriate programmes using a dedicated falls service.”
Through Time to Move we hope to address the second approach, but enjoyed the concept of the pavement as a safe place and the idea of journeys and pathways. At the moment, we’re ‘Paving the Way’, in year two, we hope to ‘Make Inroads’ and in year three, ‘Ride the Highway’.
In June 2009, Take Art will host a conference on Dance with Older People in Somerset. I can’t wait. (You’ll all have to ride the highway to us). We promise our ‘conference’ will enhance your environmental wellbeing, and we will have abundance of hearty West County food and activity. You may have difficulty finding us, but it’ll be worth your journey. We hope to be as generous as Bisakha has been when you arrive.
MOT, Moments of Tenderness.
From: Jude Bird
This is an email for keeping. If, like me you ever have those moments, weeks, when you wonder what the hell you are doing, or have done in your working life---read on.
"Do not go where the path may lead, instead, go where there is no path and leave a trail" Ralph Waldo Emerson
not enough to say to you. The conference was awesome and the ripples will
go on being felt for sometime to come.
strong minded individuals running your own organisations and that true partnership is not easy to forge. You did it. You found your way through the
complex relationships, different viewpoints, methodologies,preferences and made something really dynamic that wouldn't have been possible without all that grit. Thats a mega achievement
As an event it was a pleasure to attend. Even what could be potentially "issues" like tech back up and dodgy equipment seem small compared to the sense of unity, support, encouragement, interest that were generated by bringing together both the seminal influences in the field and the established practitioners as well as the new kids on the block.
The balance of practice, process and talk was excellent. When FCD did "Dancing Differently" conference in Mcr some years back I said to Ken at the time we should be conferencing differently. Paradigm shifts are important if
we are talk with
and engage, not just be talked at. None of us present were empty vessels
waiting to be filled. Everyone came with something and took away even
Nick your team were
ace. Such nice and willing people who just did what needed to be done
with good humour and willingness. You are a great stabilising influence
and ground things in reality and practicality as well as moving them on
and making them happen.
From Kath Gooding - Marple Movers
Performance by Marple
Movers, c/o 65 Andrew Lane ,High Lane, Stockport SK6 8HY
We really enjoyed
the experience, meeting many other people involved 'in older people dancing'
and feeling so valued.
Some submitted papers are being put on-line, see the schedule of events page.