As well as watching rehearsals last week, I was able to conduct a series of on-camera interviews with the dancers, extracts of which should begin appearing on this blog in due course. Watch this space.

In interviewing them, and in observing the rehearsals over the last month, I have been struck by the degree of cross over between personal and professional identity. Whilst the performance is not a confessional monologue, or a sentimental mining of personal histories, many of the performers, Jonathan, and others who have visited the rehearsals, such as Robert Cohan, have observed, what you are seeing are these people. At once ordinary and extraordinary, they are ‘old’, as are a sizeable chunk of the wider population. As I sit feeling the creak in my forty-odd year old hips, I wonder what could be more ordinary than that – being or becoming old. What makes it extra-ordinary perhaps, is that in our own, and others’ perceptions, age is always being assessed to something other than itself, to youth, real or imagined. It’s something of a cliché but age is seemingly something that happens to us inspite of ourselves – ‘inside, I’m still twenty two’. Given the virtuosity and athleticism that these former twenty two year olds once possessed, this could set the stage for either nostalgia or frustration, as inner-selves demand shapes and shifts that more worldly forms can no longer quite manage. One might imagine that their professional identities are also bound up to this demanding youth. Does being a professional mean being able to stretch, leap, repeat, stretch, leap, repeat without tiring or undue injury? To an extent it seems that yes, it does, that one’s self image or feeling about oneself (at least in the case of some of the dancers I’ve interviewed) retains that agile twenty something sensibility, even if one’s body is in denial of it. What remains fascinating about watching the performance develop over these last several weeks however is the foregrounding of their bodies as they are here and now.

He’s recently shown me a beautiful picture of himself dancing with the Royal Ballet as Puck, but as Brian strides across the room now, all graceful arms and purpose, it is to him that my eye is drawn, and not to some wistful image of a younger Other behind or beside him. Apart from the technique that the dancers are still so wonderfully capable of, Matteo and Jonathan have also drawn out something of dancing as a sense of self, which is as oddly mundane as it is extraordinary. Technique or virtuosity aside, it is the extent to which even the quotidian remains coloured by being a dancer that is striking. Lissie spoke interestingly about this, describing how she approaches crowded areas like station concourses as dancer – a choreographed space of other bodies to move amongst. She reminded me of the geographer David Seamon’s description of the ‘place ballets’ engaged in such environments, and although we may not have the personal or professional histories of the dancers in the Elders Project, what their performance underlines is the extent to movement shapes and informs our everyday sense of self.

 

The Ordinary You
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