Interview completed by Natasha Anderson, Community and Engagement Manager; and Lucy Clarke-Bishop, Projects Producer; of Sadler’s Wells’ Learning and Engagement team
What inspired the creation of Company of Elders?
Company of Elders has been running since 1989 and was set up to demonstrate and highlight the power of lifelong creativity. We also wanted to show that it is never too late to start dancing.
What are the ages of the members?
The current members age from their early 60s to 90 years old.
How many had dance or performance experience before joining?
None of the company members have been professional dancers previously, but some have danced socially and built an interest over time. Some company members are completely new to participating in dance performance and are enjoying discovering new skills.
Could a complete beginner participate?
Absolutely! As we’ve said, it’s never too late to start dancing.
Can you tell us more about Elixir Extracts?
Sadler’s Wells has a long standing commitment to working with people over the age of 60.
The Elixir Extracts Festival is a weekend celebrating dance by older adults. We have invited dance groups for older adults from across the country to come to Sadler’s Wells and show off what they do! The programme is inclusive work and reflects the audience we serve; it includes a range of dance styles including flamenco, quadrille (a dance style from the Caribbean), contemporary and African dance.
What are the masterclasses and how do you get to attend one?
We work with dancers from all different backgrounds, five of which have been invited to lead masterclasses in their chosen areas. They include contemporary dance, flamenco, South African dance, kathak, and ‘social soulful grooving’ (with Britain’s Got Talent stars, Old Men Grooving).
Booking for classes opens on Friday 24 May. Keep an eye on https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2019/elixir-extracts-festival/ for updates.
Challenging the perceptions of the over 60s
How much do you think this is helping to challenge the perception of the over 60s?
There are many assumptions made about people in our communities who are over 60, especially when it comes to dance. Organisations like Sadler’s Wells are continuously pushing boundaries and was one of the first to set up an over 60s dance company. We see Elixir Extracts as a celebration of our ageing communities that continue to inspire, challenge and show younger people a thing or two on the dance floor. We hope that people attending the festival will be pleasantly surprised with the dance on offer as part of the programme – so much so, that they join a group or, even better, start their own.
What is the most rewarding aspect of the initiative?
The most rewarding aspect for the organisation is meeting the people who are taking part and getting to know over 60s dancers from diverse backgrounds. It enriches our programmes and makes for a lively atmosphere during the dance sessions.
On behalf of the participants, we think they would say that they have enjoyed learning something new, meeting new people, performing and of course the additional health benefits. It enriches the lives of the dancers and helps them gain confidence, and at the same time they have fun!