Life|Art Dance Ensemble Jam Session #5

Life|Art Dance Ensemble Jam Session #5

Image of LifeIArt  Dance Ensemble courtesy of Val Anisimow.
Image of LifeIArt Dance Ensemble courtesy of Val Anisimow.

Since 2009, Life|Art Dance has collaborated with other artists while also engaging the low-income senior citizen population. Life|Art Dance Ensemble’s Jam Session #5 celebrates the organization’s five year anniversary. The performance at the Broomfield High School Auditorium features seven selections Life|Art’s repertoire including a new work, “Like a Memory,” inspired by interviews with eight seniors in the outreach program with original music by Chris Seal. The performance included live music throughout by cellist Adam Riggs, violinist Brightin Schlumpf, and pianist Christina Lalong Seal.

As an added treat, each of the musicians took center stage and performed solo. After watching the dancers move just moments before, I began to see the similarities in form and movement in the musicians themselves– the spidery flutter of fingers on strings, the twists and dips of the torso, the flex of forearms, biceps and thighs. I could see every expression and movement with a clarity that made me appreciate even more the skill it took to cull each note. I’ve heard any piece of art should address the audience’s hand, head and heart. Lalong Seal’s Claire de Lune, Schlumpf’s Liebesleid, and Riggs’ Cello Suite#6 in D, Gigue did all three.

“Like a Memory” had a different feel to it than the other pieces that featured classical music by Saint-Saën, Beethoven and Brahams. Composer Seal references swing, Lindy and sock hop, to name a few, in his playful interpretation of the interviewees’ memories of dance and music. Choreographed by seven of the company’s eight dancers, the piece has the feel of several vignettes spliced together. The smiles on the dancers’ faces were never brighter or more genuine than in this work. They also seemed freer, too, to let their personalities shine and their dance to become less pretty but more alive.

Often underserved and overlooked as arts patrons, senior citizens remain the fastest growing demographic in the population. As such, Life|Art Dance’s performances in subsidized senior living centers provide a much needed service to the “Pre-War” generation. I couldn’t help but wonder, as I sat in the cavernous auditorium, if there weren’t opportunities for seniors to attend the performance. I wanted especially to see Martha and Evelyn from Willow Green, Shirley, Beverly and Charles from Creekside, Pearley and Mary from Higgins Place, and Cathie from Francis Heights. How would they react to a piece they inspired? Did they feel the music infiltrate their bones? Feel their feet tapping on their own? The quotes in the program from each of the interviewees as well as the full interviews in the lobby were excellent additions; I just found myself wanting to know more about them, wanting to see black and white photos of them in their youth mid foxtrot or Jitterbug, watching for the residue of those same dances in their muscle memory now.

Life|Art has accomplished a lot in the past five years, artistically with its commitment to collaboration and socially with its senior citizen outreach. “Like a Memory” serves as a vital bridge between both aspects of its mission. I hope Life|Art will use the piece as a catalyst to push itself further creatively and communally to see just how far it can integrate the two sides of its mission.

Deanne Gertner: A Colorado native, Deanne Gertner is a graduate from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She works for Denver-based art consulting firm, NINE dot ARTS, where she helps companies tell their stories through art. She sits on the boards of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop and CultureHaus, the Denver Art Museum’s young professionals’ group. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Americans for the Arts’ ARTSblog, Daily Serving and KYSO Flash.