Amongst all of the questions that resonate with you about aging and growing old, which one seems the most essential for you that you would like to share ?
Transforming and nuancing our perceptions of aging and sickness and learning to identify what elderly people have to offer rather than what they need, from a multigenerational perspective.
From your own experiences, tell us about a significant moment or event in your personal or professional life that shaped your perspective around aging.
After graduating from my MA in Dance on the topic of creation in healthcare facilities, I developed many pilot projects in hospitals and CHSLDs (long-term care centres). From 2017 to 2019, I have carried out this project in its simplest expression. Mouvement de passage is a proposed dance brought to 20 to 50 residents per visit. In an improvised walkabout, two dancers and a musician visit the residents in their rooms. This offers them a singular and sensitive contact with the human body, movement and creativity at the heart of their everyday life in a CHSLD. During our visits, we put together for each room a momentary dance focused on the resident, which is part of an hour-and-a-half-long improvisation. I always invite artists to immerse themselves in their own artistic experience to create a dance which inspires them, so as to make each visit an artistic experience that only they can conduct. Depending on the resident, it might be a little dance with the eyes, gentle hand movements, or complex, dynamic, skilled improvisations. From room to room, we walk through a world of differences. One of the key points of the Mouvement de passage project is bound to the concept of “shared experiences”. We observed many moments during which the resident experienced, through their connection with the dancer, flashes of memory reminiscence, instants of lucidity, of consciousness, bouts of crying or laughing fits, posture changes, with their arms open, their eyes wide, and movements of awareness which regularize stereotypical movements. It’s certainly a powerful experience both for the resident and the dancer or musician. On another note, the relevance of creation in care centres is also linked to the process of deterritorialization that the artist experiences, while surpassing certain limits and introducing new references for their creativity. The project mainly addresses non-autonomous residents nearing the end of life, because the experience is completely different for those who are capable of rationality, who are aware of themselves, who live the experience from a distance, who still belong to the realm of language. Since dementia is commonly widespread in care centres, through dance visits I was surprised to realize that, for example, a formal greeting with words was useless to the experience, but a gesture or an expressive gaze transformed time and space. With a presentation along the lines of “Hello, my name is Ariane, I will offer you a dancing moment,” I was met with incomprehension and a certain anxiety due to the lack of understanding. With a dance that begins in the hallway and that approaches them kindly, joyfully, freely, a contact forms, a direct response, and nothing is left to do other than easing into it and watching a world being built around us. Upon entering a room, we prepare essentially to settle in, draw from experience, allowing what is already there to unfold. What seems like a simple experience a priori stirs up complex issues. One of the particularities of the Mouvement de passage project is to propose a “shared experience”: we are not seeking to create a one-way relationship: the young rejuvenating the old, the healer healing the patient, etc. It’s about meeting who we are today, through dance. Although I am younger of age, I am also undergoing aging and curious to discover what the person facing me knows about aging, from a different perspective than mine. But this binary barrier approaches quickly and as a dancer entering a CHSLD to “give” a performance, we should be careful not to play the role of vigorous youth who has the power to give. There is a lot to receive, to experience, to contemplate, such as our fragility, our weariness, and the fact that we too, are aging. Furthermore, there is something subversive in proposing such a simple experience, which doesn’t fall under the label of useful, practical or functional. A simple experience based on know-now and interpersonal skills, hailing from the conscious and subconscious of artists. “The challenge is to meet others as themselves with a non-intrusive sensitivity,” in the words of Gaelle Fiasse (2016). When we are attentive listeners, fully in our bodies, and let others touch us, roles disappear. I am her and she is me. It’s a form of mobilization to blur the boundaries between generations and reshape the way we perceive roles and contributions of elderly people to our society. While society valorizes vivacity, energy, youth and autonomy, this project proposes a more human relation with elderly people. It is a way to counter discrimination in all its forms that comes with the ageism surrounding us. A society is all its members as a whole. If we decide to bury a part of it, we are burying a part of ourselves at the same time. Aging is a part of all of us. It’s the spectre of our existence. We carry in us youth and old age. This project incites the breaking of intergenerational barriers. It brings us good by allowing us « to be different », through spectres of ourselves that we rarely confront. Meeting others opens our field of vision and allows us to be different, to receive and transform.