Last weekend I saw Gotta Dance a Broadway in Chicago musical about starting a senior dance group to entertain at half-time for a professional basketball team.
It was a blast! I really was reminded of how much I love musical theater because it brings together the best of story, music and dance.
At the center of the story, a group of older people led the action. It made me think of the phenomenon that has been happening in cinema for a while, baby “boomer” movies. It makes sense to have a target audience of the aging population of baby boomers. This large group is still willing to go out and purchase tickets, as opposed to younger generations that are using streaming, netflix etc. as their major form of entertainment.
The market for performing arts is effected by the baby boomer population. Gotta Dance was the perfect feel good musical about how you are never too old to pursue your dreams.The interesting juxtaposition was the coach who was a retired dancer at 27 pushed into training the seniors to perform because she is too old to dance herself.
Though a lovely, delightful, entertaining story, what Gotta Dance does for age diversity it sacrifices in other areas. For a racially diverse group, race is most glazed over or vaguely stereotyped (the asian woman loves the all you can eat asian buffet, the latina woman does the salsa). The nuance could have been explored with these characters all coming together from different racial and cultural backgrounds to be more interesting.
aMID Festival at Links Hall is going on through the week. It explores the challenges faced by the aging body in the performance community.
The line-up is innovative and the performances on Thursday night had a contemplative quality that let time-based art surround us with thoughts of time and aging.
Deborah Hay is such a figure in the dance community and her performance was engaging. She wove her way through the audience dispersed across the performance space. Audience members seemed called to echo her movements, lifting legs, stretching backs, as she meditatively danced. It felt like a special opportunity to join her for the evening.
I found Zephyr Dance’s piece to be like the rising sun washing over us each day. There is nothing we can do, time will move forward with or without us. Dancers displayed acrobatic strength holding difficult positions as the light rose over them. Three dancers seemed to represent different stages of life to me. We are connected to our past, present and future selves, but our movements or preoccupations are different.
Both shows reminded that though dancing might change as the dancer ages, dance can still be a part of life. I think it’s interesting that dance is an art that takes place over time, it makes sense to the viewer not as still snapshots, but in how movement progresses over time. Dance is only possible through time, but also bound by the inevitable aging of the dancer.
As a response to the themes of time, aging and movement, I wanted to create a time capsule.
The tricky part is that I wanted it to move and be dynamic.
I’ve thought it is interesting that water bottles have expiration dates on them. One time a friend and I decorated and saved plastic water bottles whose expiration date was after our graduation. Which at the time, felt very far away. It tracked the time and when the expiration date arrived, we were at a different stage of life.
Water doesn’t really expire. The date is related to the plastic bottle. The surroundings change around the moving water. The water is like our spirit, yearning to move, dance and forever young. Our bodies hold that spirit like the bottle and age and deteriorate without our control. The water bottle seemed like a perfect vessel for my time capsule.
I also had to do this project pretty quickly so that the layers in the water did what I wanted them to do. I have a rolled up scroll (a message in a bottle if you will) and the red paint. I chose the red to mirror the Zephyr Dance image.
Time is something all of us experience but none of us can change. We can embrace aging and expand opportunities for older performing artists to share their talents and expertise. Age inclusion can increase broaden the arts community by prolonging the great talents we have.
P.S. the time capsule looks better over time actually.