Wednesday 17 April – Dancing our Grannies (Metlife Creative Aging Project Boston)

No more is known about the Boston Marathon bombers. People still edgy, jittery and sad. Before we begin this elders dance session in Dorchester, a working class suburb of Boston, one woman asks “Could we say a prayer for what happened on Monday?” As we finished our silent prayer, another woman asked “Could we say a prayer for what happened on Monday?” “We just said one”. “Let’s say another one”. So we did.

The group of 14 is all women and either West Indian or African American. They are about half way through devising a dance based on what they remember of their grandmothers.  Joan Green, 71 and a longtime veteran of making dance with older people as well as her own work, is working with Molly, an apprentice. It’s a wonderful session. It’s held in the local library where it fits in well. The funding is from Metlife Insurance who are doing a series of projects specifically for work in libraries for older people who don’t feel comfortable in senior centres. After a warmup Joan puts on blues and jazz music as people make shapes in different sized groups.

 IMG_0113 IMG_0089Then we go to the devised piece. There are grandmothers putting on aprons, grandmothers putting on Sunday hats, grandmothers grinding cornmeal to the tune “Drop me off in Harlem”. People move well, there is a fluidity. When they flag, Joan introduces something different. They mirror in pairs. Everyone is given a top hat and they strut their stuff. Joan puts on “Respect” and everyone “dances themselves”.

I’m knocked out by the energy and creativity in this session and tell Joan so. Sadly, with this wonderful project it’s ten weeks, one performance, and then the funding is gone. So often the story of arts projects. But this one’s a corker. Live for the day, have a good time and know that everyone will feel better for having done it.


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