A reflection by Sally James - A Gentle Groover since 2020.
What happens when a group of over-60s join a dance class called Gentle Groove?
We spend an hour each week learning creative contemporary dance under the guidance and inspiration of Renata Commisso. With no lefts and rights, no right and wrong, we learn to move while developing balance, strength, co-ordination and other skills to keep us healthy and active. Renata teaches with love and joy; we leave each class fitter and lighter with a spring in our step. Her classes are fun.
But it’s not enough to stay in our comfort zone. This year we were asked to perform. After several weeks of collaboration and rehearsal, we took part in the (World Premiere) performance of Women at a Canada Bay Council Seniors Week event.
The concept started with a song: Put the Woman in Charge, followed by Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman. Next came our ideas – what were the roles that women undertook in previous generations? How could we represent them? Scrubbing, washing, sweeping, tending fires, cooking, book-keeping – even riding side-saddle. We created movements to represent these activities and Renata wove them into the dance.
After this, we workshopped the characteristics women exhibit, and acknowledged that we are often overlooked and undervalued. The list grew as we bounced ideas off each other. Some were accepted by all of us, but others were more controversial. We settled on the key characteristics of multi-tasking, being burdened, being passionate, being sisters and sharing love (represented by a flower).
Finally, we talked about our individual successes – what was one thing that we were proud of? For me it was going back to Uni as a mature student. Other achievements included skydiving (because she felt too young to be a grandmother) and designing and making a dress which was admired.
Renata wove these concepts and movements into a dance, found music to perform to, sent us videos to practice and encouraged and rehearsed us. A disparate group of senior women: some had danced all their lives; others were complete novices.
Performance day arrived too soon – most of us felt under-rehearsed. But our autumn-coloured clothes blended as we danced together – getting most of the moves right, grateful for the experience of sharing ideas and passion, exercising out bodies and minds while having fun.
Thank you to Renata and the Gentle Groove Community for enriching my life.