Jo Fong was the lead artist on this movement performance project in collaboration with Striking Attitudes and guests.

The How Shall We Begin Again project was an Arts Council of Wales funded R and D project, a collaboration between some of the older professional dancers of Striking Attitudes and Jo Fong. Originally called the ‘Not finished Yet’ project, led by Jo, the aim was to search for new ways to continue to dance, as mature bodies, as older professional dancers. We were generously supported with studio space by National Dance Company Wales and the Millennium Centre.

The project first started in 2019 but, interrupted by Covid19, had been on hold until we felt it relatively safe, with vaccines and lateral flow tests, to re-enter the studio with Jo. This was an emotional experience, strange and nervy, but immensely positive and exhilarating. A sharing with a very few people took place on December 18th 2021.

During the creative sessions with Jo we continued to ask questions about what it means to be an older dancer. How does the professional dancer’s ageing body have an active part in the hierarchy of dance and how do we continue to have a place in performance? As older dancers, do we become in-valid as our bodies no longer conform to the athletic stereotype? Are we less of a performer now, or do our rich and varied internal landscapes, full of the stories of our lives, compensate for this decreased physicality? 

As two years of Covid19 passed between the start of the project and the return to it, the mood had changed by the time we were able to start work again. The questions above still remained, but were hugely impacted by the fact that we had not been able to dance together in a studio for the past two years, and by a sense of everyone’s physical and emotional vulnerability in this new time, this Covid19 era. This was reflected in Jo’s new title and her thoughts on where we are now and what that means, particularly for us as older dancers, older people. Below are some of Jo’s thoughts that were on the programme notes.

‘‘The study comes from several areas of thought and momentum and stillness including: 

Noticing how this time has meant bodies have been left out

How to return to the body?

Addressing aloneness and restrictions

Ideas around being rather than doing

The older dancer

The conversations have tended to be around, why do we dance?

How, we and with care, present difference on a stage?

How shall we begin again? is something between, taking up space, being seen, a commitment and protest for dance and bodies to be part of people’s futures and something like a prayer.’’

Collaborators: Caroline Lamb, Bert Van Gorp, Belinda Neave, Dylan Davies, George Fuller, Lara Ward, June Campbell Davies, Aleksandra Nikolajev Jones, and huge thanks to Janet Fieldsend who was part of the initial discussions for this study and hopes to re-join this process at a later date.

“What I need might be a sensation, connection, vibration, space, higher ceilings, skipping…part of my joy in being alive, or simply being me, is me in my physicality, I am looking for something like this. My dancing is changing every day, the dance has changed, no doubt everyone’s dance has.” 

We loved working with Jo and everyone got so much out of our time in the studio with her. We’re looking forward to the project being developed by Jo, on a very much larger scale.

Meanwhile, we think the photographs show that we still have much to show and much to say!

How Shall We Begin Again was supported by Arts Council Wales, Chapter, Wales Millennium Centre and Ty Dawns/ The Dance House, Cardiff. 

Photo Credit: Gareth Clark

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