The world is my house
Hello my name is Annemarie and I’ve been working in the dance sector since 1995. For the last 9 years I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of dancing with people who are 55 plus. People who want to fully participate in the world, beyond their front door and get out of the house. Together in the dance studio, at Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, our dance classes are about that and much more.
Hello my name is Annemarie and I’ve been working in the dance sector since 1995. For the last 9 years I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of dancing with people who are 55 plus. People who want to fully participate in the world, beyond their front door and get out of the house. Together in the dance studio, at Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, our dance classes are about that and much more. We are moving, sharing, connecting, perhaps most importantly, becoming aware of the potential of dance for wellbeing.
The wonder found in a simple gesture and the sensitivity that we all share together. The playfulness that tingles through the body arising from curiosity. Experiencing music and the fire of emotions, magnified through motion. Knowing that every thing is good and we are all doing the best that we can in the moment. For me personally, all part of what it means to be human.
Before going further, I would like to invite you to take a moment, now and reflect on how life can be yes, wonderful, curious and joyful. Full of passion, care and love. That’s right. Now, cast your mind back to a time when life was less joyful, painful perhaps even loveless, soulless. All of us can experience those feelings. All of us can experience physical pain as well. For some dancers there is the distress that their body is not working as it used to. A sense of suffering. An idea that they are not good enough. The feeling of being less able, lonely, or rejected. Yearning to be perfect, wanting to be acknowledged, accepted. While one of the dancers felt that they couldn’t measure up to the high standards that society often projects on how we should age gracefully. Another dancer being in public, has excused their uncontrollable movement, a symptom of their illness, saying “I haven’t been drinking, I’ve got Parkinson’s”. That’s because while many people are aware of the illness Parkinson’s, most are unaware of all the symptoms. The dancers say how important the group is for them and that they wouldn’t want to lose that connection.
So in the first half of 2020, confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, like many others I had to ask the question, should we continue the dance class? Because some of the dancers are dealing with serious medical conditions, like Parkinson’s, acquired brain injury and Rheumatism, it was a difficult decision with potentially serious consequences. While dancing in the studio was not an option, I quickly realised that I had a duty of care for the dancers, because of what the class represents. Even though I had an aversion to the only option, the alternative stopping the class, was not an option. The only way to go was to go online. There are some obvious and some less obvious limitations on what is possible online. In the beginning I found it difficult. I often struggled with making videos, hosting platforms, technical equipment. For weeks I had music echoing in my ears and a lag in what they saw and what I was saying. Watched YouTube videos and asked advice on how to stream music properly, so I could be heard, as well as the music. Finding inspiration for the class, while not introducing new choreography for fear that it might cause harm, was problematic. While I strove to make sure that the movements where appropriate and safe to do. Knowing how someone is feeling, observing wether the movement is being correctly done, is much more challenging online than in the studio. And while many of us had to cope with distractions, lack of space, learning new skills, stepping over the digital divide. Eventually, we adjusted to the dimensions of a screen, or even when we didn’t, we still connected for that group connection.
We made the switch from biking or using public transport, to the studio, to logging in from the living room, kitchen, or in one case the caravan. The technical kinks got worked out, the safety protocols resolved and the inspiration for new material, as always came from the dancers. We’ve had laughs, had fun and played with stretching beyond our comfort zone. In the online class we moved through grief, kept our sense of wonder, curiosity and joy alive. Before 2020 our dance class, was helpful in coping with life’s challenges. During 2020/ 21 it’s been a welcome point of continuity and the answer was online. For all of us it’s been a replacement for being physically together, not as good. We are all still doing the best that we can in the moment. When home is safety, peace and security. When through the screen the world becomes your house. When that feeling goes beyond the boundaries of the front door. Then now going out into the world, now going beyond the front door, knowing that the world is your home. Know now the world is our house.