Let’s Talk About Ageism and Dance [Singapore]

“At an event last week, about 30 adults came together to present a community dance. Some of them were women and men in their 70s and had never danced in public before. The excitement on their faces, the joy in the gait as they took their positions and the sheer bliss they exuded while moving to music, lyrics and rhythm …. as a viewer and a dance professional, I was inspired.

After the presentation, an elderly participant’s eyes filled with tears as she said, “I will never forget this day. I did something that I never imagined I would be able to do.” Such is the magic of Dance.

And yet, some members of the crowd that evening questioned the need for these adults to have danced. The previous evening, a group of mature women had presented a joyous folk dance.  “Why couldn’t children have performed instead?” was the question asked. As I ask, “Why NOT the adults?”, I realise that ageism* continues to exist unabashedly especially in Dance. Noone asked this question when a group of adults sat down to sing!

(*Ageism – prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age)

While thinking about ageism and the defying of stereotypical norms, Eileen Kramer just has to come to mind. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, she has said, “Dancing; it psychologically strengthens me. I like looking at myself in the mirror. I like people to tell me that what I did was beautiful.” Interestingly, Eileen has lived in various countries, including India,… “I lived in India for quite a long time, I danced there…and it gave me a purpose. I wasn’t just wandering about looking at things. I absorbed a lot in India.”

It is not just the fact that Eileen Kramer is 100 years old. I look at her dance photographs and I watch her videos, and I am convinced that there is a special depth and magic to her portrayals … it is something that a younger body would find difficult to convey. …”


Read the rest of Nirmala Seshadri’s thoughts on ageism in dance.

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