Arousing the Soul through Movement … an Inspirited Aging session with Kerry-Ann Stanton

“An aged (wo)man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress … “

From: W. B. Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”

What a delicious provocation to respond to in session!  InSpirited Aging is a weekly practice of movement, writing, simple art making and conversation for people over 60.

Aging can be a difficult time in our lives; when our physical bodies lose form and vigour.  At the same time, our life energy can fade away.  Working with my elders I wanted to elicit a movement and emotional response and explore the individual’s dance between stick figure and soul singing.  Could the observations made in session be taken into our daily living?

The four lines raise a range of questions.  Am I a paltry thing?  If so, how might I move?  Does my soul clap hands?  What happens when soul claps hands?  What happens when I play with moving between ‘stick’ and ‘Soul’?  What leads the way?  What am I aware of internally?  Externally?  And so on …

We read the lines together before we began the dance exploration.  The music was intentionally chosen to play with the dance between a paltry stick mover and a soul clapping its hands and singing.

e.g. We started with: This Rhythm is Not Mine (John de Kadt)

Before moving to:  Diamond In Disguise – Chance’s End

And before the art making and writing: Parov Stelar – Booty Swing (Official Audio)

For art making I had laid out a range of watercolour pictures from nature.  We choose one each and then drew our response to that image and/or our experience of the dance, followed by writing our thoughts and reflections post drawing.  Finally, we shared whatever we wanted to.

We always move again at the end to integrate our experience.

What emerged was a great movement exploration, with wonderful contrasts between stick and soul moving, tightness and laughter. Paltry and stick invited a tightening and drawing in of the torso, angular movements feet and hands.  By contrast soul clapping brought the body into vitality, wider, deeper movements and a range of rhythms with arms and legs.

There was a clear choice of plant and truly beautiful creative art responses.  The body softened and tears flowed as the heart released.

And so, through movement, we brought awareness to our Soul nature, that part of us that needs to clap, sing and dance!  Never mind being old(er)!

One dancer stated:  I have found it very grounding and connecting.  It gives me space to be completely in the moment and to wholly give to me.  I give a lot to others in my work so this is very important.

While another: Listening, and seeing what comes up for me in the dance.  Sometimes surprising and emotional, sometimes fun, stretching my body and my acceptance of myself.

How might each of us bring this practice into our lives, irrespective of our age?

It is as simple as choosing to move mindfully and ‘artistically’, and observing what arises.

I leave Caroline, one of the dancers, with the last word.

The tatters just move together and laugh at the world”.