Host 2024: What a Day!

Host 2024: What a Day!

HOST 2024 continued the ever-evolving network of older dancers from the East of England and beyond, even to the other side of the world. The day was full, very full. We were treated to three differing approaches to dance and movement through workshops with Mary-Clare McKenna (Skinner Release), Richard Pye (contact improvisation) and Ollie Robertson (floorwork). All offered respectful challenges for us.

The rest of the day was laced with a huge range of older dancers showcasing their work, some experienced performers, others less so. This included a variety of mesmerising performances on stage; each was well-rehearsed, performance confident, and shared excellence in what they offered and community practice. Alongside the live performances there was an eclectic sharing of dance films from around the world, even as far as Australia. The scope was remarkable.  

The EncoreEast team led by Luca Silvestrini, Stella Eldon and Jeanette Siddall reviewed the whole process of the Home from Home project bringing us around, full circle, to its very inception two years ago. A short discussion and breakout sessions on dance for older dancers followed. We talked a lot.   

The day was a truly exceptional day to celebrate and share all aspects of this community of older dancers, who are challenging our perceptions of what dance means to us all.

The day finished with a performance of the award-winning Home from Home project ‘In the End we Begin’. The cast of 26 includes many of the original dancers and some new ones. The work embraces quiet, intimate moments, gentle humour and fast-paced celebration, reflecting the diverse emotions we experience through the cycles of life. It was a joy and privilege to return to the piece, a process very rarely afforded to older dancers.

We reworked it to accommodate the smaller cast and new members, and the time together gave a us a deeper insight into both the work and the performance process.

EncoreEast has loved collaborating throughout this project and are thrilled to share some thoughts from two of the wider cast.

I was so pleased to be able to take part in this, having had to drop out after our June 23 sharing day. I was moved and awed by the piece when I saw it last October. Then to have the opportunity to step back in was a delight; to catch up and witness how much work you, we, had all put in, and hone the choreography further. I enjoyed both the rigour and flexibility that the whole ensemble offered, for Luca to return and redesign the piece, until it felt like being in the workings of a beautiful, organic, expansive watch. Bee Springwood (Cadenza)

I would love to work with the Home from Home team again because EncoreEast created a project for dancers who incidentally happened to be ‘old’. It was an exploration of what it means to be a dancer not what it means to be old. And it was uncompromising. 

‘Older’ carries with it assumptions of what I am no longer able to do. Physically this is a truth. But my dancer is so much more than my body. While my body has changed as I have aged my ‘dancer’ remains ageless. All the characteristics that defined me as a dancer 60 years ago remain constant.   

When I dance I am immersed in movement. I work hard physically, intellectually and emotionally to find ways to understand and express the choreographic intention. I am demanding of myself and self-critical. I scrutinise the detail of each movement for accuracy and precision. I am social, collaborative and creative. I ache after a rehearsal – was it ever thus.

My dancer is so much more that my ‘old’ body. Sarah Jackson (The Place Dancers)

Photo credit: Roswitha Chesher