27 Jun ‘Dance Me to Death’
My spine is tingling as I watch ten performers solemnly walk along the path towards me, in Kensal Green Cemetery. They move at funeral pace, each holding a grief object, in a ritual procession of remembrance. I am here to support an intention to hold death in my awareness along with these non-professional dancers who, all over 60 are themselves turning towards mortality.
Along with singing and making music together, dance is one of our oldest and most universal human activities. In this time, this mode of expression is often side-lined as a pastime of the young or drunk. My winding and sensuous dances keep my ageing body moving, but also allow my soul to connect with others. One of the advantages of age for me, is a letting go of inhibitions – to be less self-conscious about my image in others’ eyes. We bumped into a friend on the way to the cemetery by chance, who told us that dancing in community was what sustained their parents (now late 70’s).
Rose Rouse – a passionate dancer and advocate for the ‘Advantages of Age’ was the instigator of ‘Dance Me to Death’. She met Rhys Dennis and Waddah Sinada of Fubunation – young dancers who are exploring black masculinity in their choreography, encouraging diverse collaborations and audiences. Rose was excited by Rhys and Waddah’s work. But, in order to make this intergenerational project happen said, “I had to persuade them to do this project with me.” They said “Yes”, and the project emerged as a collaboration – devising, dancing and exploring their experiences around death and grief. The outcome is a performance, photographs, and documentary film in the making.
The cemetery is a beautiful backdrop of caryatids, columns, and tombs surrounded by trees, and just enough wildness. Reminiscent of the angels that reach out to one another from the top of one mausoleum, the dancers stretch and connect. As the dancers claim the grand steps of one chapel they move, dancing with the edges between life and death. Cello and percussion accompany their coming together in group pieces and duets that are tender with moments of surprising energy.
Informed by mortality, and the uncertainty of Covid rules and weather, this nod to death felt like an achievement against the odds, and a celebration of life.