Quicksilver Gets a Visit from an Overseas Fellow

This October AFTA welcomed a visitor from across the pond. Rachel Rogers, Project Development Manager at Merseyside Dance Initiative in Liverpool UK, was visiting the United States via a travel fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and the Baring Foundation.  Her aim was to research performance and community arts practice for, by and with older people. We were thrilled she chose to include a visit with AFTA’s senior dance improvisation troupe Quicksilver in her busy schedule.

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When Rachel arrived at our rehearsal in brightly-colored, movement-friendly clothing, we knew she would fit in perfectly!  Rachel gamely took part in Quicksilver’s rehearsal, from warm-up stretches to improvised dance. Quicksilver dancers know how to use space, and in this session the wall was their prop.

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After the session, Rachel sat down with us to share more about her work with older adults in the UK. Merseyside Dance Initiative has delivered a program of dance activity for older people since 1999 including regular classes, themed projects, intergenerational and culturally specific projects, special commissions and performance work.  We were particularly interested in Merseyside’s Dance for Parkinson’s program, which included family and caregivers of Parkinson’s patients. Rachel expressed appreciation for Quicksilver’s outreach programs, in which our active seniors engage their more frail peers at AFTA partner centers in group dance.   She also commended Quicksilver for their spontaneity and use of “appreciative dialogue” – when members perform for one another and the observers respond with critical feedback.

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Rachel has returned to the UK, but she reflected on her time with Quicksilver in a recent email:

“I found the energy and enthusiasm in your group very exciting as with the level of artistic and  intellectual discussion about the art form.  I loved the fact that it’s not a novelty for these women to want to be involved in dance at this level and that there is responsibility on them to deliver as well as be fed.”

You can read more about Rachel’s adventures exploring creative aging in the United States on her blog.

Don’t miss the story of her visit with Quicksilver!


AFTA Fall Teaching Artist Meeting

Recently our Teaching Artists gathered at AFTA’s offices at Non-Profit Village for their quarterly meeting, an opportunity to reconnect, develop professionally and share stories from their programs – stories like these:

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TEACHING ARTISTS AND AFTA STAFF (CLOCKWISE FROM UPPER LEFT): MILES SPICER, MARCIE WOLF-HUBBARD, SANDRA ROACHFORD, CAROL SIEGEL, NANCY HAVLIK, JOAN HAMPTON FRASER, JANINE TURSINI, DONNA MCKEE, ANNETTA DEXTER SAWYER, ANTHONY HYATT, BRANDI ROSE. NOT PICTURED: MARLA BUSH, PETER BURROUGHS, CANDACE WOLF

afta-4Nancy Havlik

“I repeatedly encounter Jim in my visits to Rockville Nursing Home.  Jim is in a wheelchair and bound by a neck-brace. At first I was apprehensive to interact with him, as he appeared so weak, so seemingly unable and limited. But in one session, when I started to read a poem, Jim began to talk and make comments on the poem. He couldn’t talk loudly, but he’d whisper his thoughts into my ear and I would repeat these to the group. It turned out that Jim used to be a college professor and still has an incredible intellect trapped inside this frail shell. One of the things that makes AFTA great is that, unlike many other programs, AFTA engages with the inner person, and allows that person to express themselves; that same self which is so often ignored in this world because of the body in which it is presented.”


afta-2Joan Hampton Fraser

“Recently, one of the regular participants in my Creative Writing class at Lewinsville Adult Day Care Center passed away. When his family visited the center after his death, the staff shared his writing from my program, which they had meticulously saved and copied over the months. None of his family members had realized just how much their loved one was able to remember and still express, and they were incredibly touched to have this writing with which to remember that there was still life inside of him during his final years.”


DSC_0039Annetta Dexter Sawyer

“Once when I was teaching a dance class, there was one woman who, apprehensive and shy, would hide off to the side of the group, wrapped in a blanket. As the music played, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, this movement forming underneath the blanket. Building in momentum with the music, the blanket started to unravel, and like a blossoming flower, she appeared out of it in dance.”


afta-1Carol Siegel

 

“Teaching a class at Alexandria Adult Day Health Care Center, there was one woman who always refused to partake or interact with the other participants. Often she’d leave before the class began, and sometimes halfway through, asking for the nurse to escort her away. During one session I was reading a Lucille Clifton’s poem “i am running into a new year” and this same woman somehow connected with it. She started to interact with the other participants, discussing the poem enthusiastically. It reminded me of the power a poem can have to make that connection, to get through to someone and open them up and change their mood immediately.”

 

i am running into a new year

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what I said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen
and twentysix and thirtysix
even thirtysix but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me


afta-3Miles Spicer

“I often sing the song ‘Since I Fell For You’ at Downtown Clusters Geriatric Day Care. Usually I sing the first couple of lines before one participant in particular comes over to join me. She loves the song so much and sings it with such passion. When she was a child, she wanted to be a singer, but her father never allowed it. It’s just one of many cases which remind me of how AFTA gives people that opportunity to live their lost dreams. It’s never too late for anyone to grasp at that chance, and it’s our duty to make sure we give people the chance to do so.”


Dementia Arts in the National Spotlight

In September, several events in Washington, D.C. focused on the advancement of research in arts and aging. The field is ever-growing.

The National Academy of Sciences and a consortium composed of the Committee on National Statistics, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institutes of Health hosted a workshop entitled “Workshop on Research Gaps and Opportunities for Exploring the Relationship between the Arts and Health and Well-Being in Older Adults“.  The purpose was to identify research gaps and opportunities for exploring the relationships of arts participation and creativity to physical health and psychological well-being in older adults.  It provided a critique of the field, including challenges in undertaking research capacity-building; and offered guidance for the design of future studies and research funding opportunities.

A video and transcript of the workshop will be posted at www.arts.gov

The following week, Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico hosted “Dementia Arts on Capitol Hill”, a briefing on the use of arts in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.

SENATOR TOM UDALL OPENS THE SESSION.
SENATOR TOM UDALL OPENS THE SESSION.

Panelists included: Dr. Anne Basting, Executive Director, Center on Age & Community and founder, Timeslips: Maria Genne, founder, Kairos Dance; Margery Pabst, Executive Director, Pabst Charitable Foundation for the Arts and author of Enrich Your Caregiving Journey; Dr. Richard Taylor, a leading advocate for people living with cognitive impairment and Dr. Linda Levine Madori, founder, Therapeutic Thematic Arts Programming for Older Adults – TTAP Method.

DR. ANNE BASTING SPEAKS DURING THE PANEL DISCUSSION
DR. ANNE BASTING SPEAKS DURING THE PANEL DISCUSSION

Poet Stuart Hall from Santa Fe, New Mexico shared several poems, including this one titled “Confetti”:

My mind’s not at all a blank slate.

Though I cannot keep track of the date

Or the day of the week.

And facts play hide-and-seek,

For my mind to be blank would be great.

Instead it is wired like spaghetti;

it conflates the important and petty;

The connections of all things

Are like tangles of strings

Or like celebratory confetti.

STUART HALL SHARED THREE OF HIS POEMS ON THE AGING MIND.
STUART HALL SHARED THREE OF HIS POEMS ON THE AGING MIND.

We can’t wait to see what new research is inspired by these conversations.