Last week, each group was assigned at least one student in the dance program. This is very helpful because inexperienced dancers (like me and I’m sure several others) were able to mimic motions if they were unsure about where their limbs needed to be
next. This week, all the dance students were part of a major performance, so they were absent and the physical therapy and pharmacy students were expected to take the reins. Don’t get me wrong, the dance students were definitely missed, but their absence allowed all of us to dive into our more creative sides.
The theme for today’s class was listening. By listening, I do not mean listening to words.
I’m talking about listening to actions, motions, body language…etc. Engaging in non-verbal communication made me recall the common phrase, “Actions speak louder than words”, which usually is used to label those who make promises or statements and do not follow through with them. Today’s class allowed to contemplate a different perspective of that phrase. At the start of class, there was an assigned leader that initiated motions, and then the rest of the responders reacted to the movement. It was amazing to watch how quickly we became comfortable with each other. We reached a point, within minutes, to where there really was no need for a leader because each group was so in-sync with each other. Watching people dance gave me a snippet of each of their personalities, which is something that may take hours, weeks or even months to discover in verbal conversation. Some were outgoing and goofy while others were more reserved and shy. It also reminded me that age really IS just a number and that we all, no matter how young or old, are just people trying to live life and have fun.
Aging is change and it happens to everyone. Most people do not like aging because of
all the negative-associated and uncontrollable changes that comes with it. I don’t know what’s in store for me when I get older, but I do know that there are several constants that I know I can control and keep: my goofy, outgoing personality and my positivity to enjoy life and have fun.
Teri Draper, graduate student in Physical Therapy
Today we explored the concepts of expansion and compression in the body and in space. We also investigated quick and slow movement to begin choreographing small studies of how bodies can amplify time and space. As always, the movement explorations served as an entryway for all of us (older adults, students, dancers and people discovering dance) to unite in laughter, silliness, and creativity. Some Sundays I come to PALETTE tired, groggy, or stressed out. However, once we begin moving together it all immediately melts away. I am constantly amazed at all the beauty and openness in the room, and seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces lights me up inside. I inevitably leave invigorated and inspired.
Before this program, I dreaded the thought of aging. Now, each week PALETTE puts my life into perspective: whatever stress or worries I have shrink when I realize how much of my life I have to look forward to, because I am dancing and laughing and sharing joy with people who have lived through it already. I am so thankful for the opportunity to move alongside people who might not otherwise experience dance in a space where we all move as unique equals.
Aria Roach, student in Dance
Today was an extremely successful first movement based session of PALETTE in Motion. The class began with a brief introduction in which all participants sat in a circle. Sitting in a circle was a great way to ease everyone into the program because it automatically developed a sense of equality and community between senior, participant, dancer, and coordinator. From there, Melanie led us through a warm up that explored all parts of the body from the muscles in the face to grounding down through our legs. It was interesting to see the progression of the class; how everyone started out reserved and as time went on, personalities shined through. Sharing movement with a group of people who do not “study” dance was extremely humbling.
As our creative hats turned on, we began some small gestural improvisation. This is something that I, as a dancer, don’t have to think about but impulse brings me there. However, as I examined the people around me, I realized that mostly everyone else was hesitant or embarrassed to create a movement gesture. The classed progressed through a series of movement exploration activities such as mirroring and sharing eye contact while spelling your name through your body. I realized that by creating movement in a group atmosphere, we were all embarking on a journey of discovery together. We were all people given the permission to put aside judgment, and move freely based on impulse. We were all dancers.
Rachel Stanislawczyk, student in Dance
Walking into the dance studio today, there was a feeling of excitement and maybe a little apprehension as no one really knew what to expect from this experience. This is the first time movement art classes are being offered through the PALETTE program and I am excited to be a part of this inaugural class. As I conversed with fellow participants before the start of class, I realized that regardless of our different backgrounds and experiences, we were all starting on the same page today. We were all a little nervous about what was to come, but also excited to be experiencing something new. The older adult sitting next to me commented about never being too old to try something new. I think this is true on many levels. For all of us today, trying something new was participating in a movement class without really knowing what that meant. As a child, it was learning to walk instead of crawl. As an older adult, it may be picking up a new hobby after retirement.
Today, it was exciting to see both younger and older adults trying something new together. We started by introducing ourselves and then had a chance to be creative right away with moving and making shapes with our bodies, and connecting with and moving with others. We later worked in small groups and took turns leading others with our own creative dance moves. Everyone had a chance to lead and follow through this exercise. My favorite activity from today was moving our bodies through space to spell our name. I am well-practiced at using my arms to spell out VCU during basketball games, but found it a challenge to think about how to represent my own name and having more freedom to move about than when packed into the student section at a game. We had a chance to share our name dance with the entire group and it was absolutely beautiful to watch everyone share something they had created and that was unique to them. By the end of class today, I think everyone seemed a little more relaxed and much more connected than we had at the beginning. I am looking forward to making deeper connections as the movement classes continue.
Kelly Hainline, graduate student in Physical Therapy
The first class today was a bit different than I had expected; I was thinking we would be having a dance class, where Melanie and the dance students would be teaching how to count music, showing positions, teaching basic movements, etc. However, I was surprised and excited to find out that the class was much more centered on individual creativity and improvisation. I was also very surprised how creative and unreserved the seniors danced. I had a preconceived notion before class that the older adults would be a bit shy, move a bit slower and wouldn’t be able to do some of the more advanced movements the students could do. I quickly found out this ageist opinion was very incorrect; overall the older adults were so much more free and energetic than the students! As I was dancing with my PAL, she was the one coming up with the quick, more advanced movements that I couldn’t keep up with! It was quite an eye-opener and it almost completely caused the generational-gap to disappear.
After just one class, I have already realized how similar older and younger adults are (after all, we are all humans!). Today, specifically, showed me how capable older adults can be. Society has the tendency to show senior adults as dependent, physically sedentary and uninvolved in the community. And because of the negative societal views on older adults, I have always just assumed I too would become dependent, physically sedentary and socially uninvolved as I age. PALETTE in Motion is already proving these stereotypes to be unfounded and is giving me a much brighter outlook on aging. I can honestly say the older adults in today’s class have inspired me and changed the way I look at aging. Growing older is something to embrace and to not be afraid of. I am very excited for the following classes and cannot wait to learn more about how dancing can bring generations closer.
Laura Morris, graduate student in Physical Therapy