Inspire, Learn, Challenge - Creative Aging

NCCA recently introduced The Creative Age Leadership Exchange and Conference to the Greater Washington, DC community through a presentation by Liz Lerman. Liz is a MacArthur Fellow, dancer, and choreographer who started her career at the Roosevelt Senior Center in Washington, DC in the 1970s.  Since the late 80s, I have had the privilege to witness Liz’s work grow.  The beauty of her dance is in the amplification of everyday movements. Her work energizes the audience and finds common emotional ground across ages, cultures, and ways of living.

Now Liz and I, like many of our peers exploring aging, are in our 60s– what does that mean on a personal level?  Are our minds working up to par? Do we still find passion and energy in our lives?  Will our bodies carry us forward or slump in decline?  And how can we find spiritual peace and meaning?  Should aging be about us at all?

During her presentation, Liz shared an essay – an excerpt from her book, Hiking the Horizontal.  She shared her curiosity about growing older now that she is aging into her work - a concept that has taken her full circle as she has worked with older dancers throughout her career.  Liz explained how stepping off a curb now feels like leaping.  How an opportunity to move in a certain way to demonstrate a technique has vanished. How the memory of movements past feels like a phantom limb.  Liz feels that her phantom body is more real than reality. She savors the experience of moving back and forth with memories, broadening the relationship between her past work and present art.

Her new production, Healing Wars will anchor the NCCA Leadership Exchange this June. When I saw the beginnings of this piece last year at Harvard, I was profoundly moved by the raw emotion.  The compounding movement, visuals, and sounds of war created visceral images that sent me whirling through time and space.  On a chilly November evening in Boston, the phantoms of the past taught me how to address my own civil wars.

We all hope for healing and to be healers as we age.  Liz’s Hiking the Horizontal blazes a path for us to follow by providing an example of creative aging.  Moving forward with our memories informs our future and broadens our stories, influencing our art.

Gay Hanna
NCCA Executive Director

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