Aging Body, Aging Art

What happens to our art as we age? We evolve, we change, we grow old – but does our art? Of course it has to change too!

This is an interesting question that I’m sure many of us artistically inclined and creative types have wondered about. How will our art age? How does that mirror our aging?

There are no solid answers but we can look to older artists for suggestions on what to expect. Take dancer and choreographer Bebe Miller whose recent Creative Independent interview sought to answer these questions. For Miller, it’s somewhat obvious in that the body for a dancer is both the medium and the message and, as a dancer ages, the way the medium transmits changes – and so does the message.

You age along with your process; you age into it. Like a lot of choreographers, I started doing choreography because I loved dancing. I love the whole idea of shaping movement. There’s this, and then there’s this other thing. And then—whoa—you just leapt in the air! All of that is pretty cool. Performing that is also pretty cool. But by being in it, you don’t really know what it is because you can’t fully see it. When I started stepping out of the work that I was making, it was a whole different education. Still, I feel very much involved with my kineticist response to it and trying to listen to that.

That’s so beautiful of letting the body give and take from you as you give and take from the body. Such is art as we age.

How do you work around this? Miller’s suggestion is a quiet revelation that relates to so many performative arts – and should be held to the breast of all artists.

As I’ve gotten older, I can’t remember as many steps. It seems not so interesting. I work with a lot of people who are really excellent improvisers, and we hone an improvisational score to the Nth degree, so that the score is repeatable, even though the details may change. Often when you say “improvisation,” people think, “Oh, you’re just making it up.” Not so. Particularly in group work, it’s the rate of interaction, the manner of the space, and the dynamic picture of the space itself that is choreographed. The details of which foot it is and when that arm happens are less important to me than those older building blocks.

As you age, you can improvise more. You can escape the outlines and grids of creation and riff within them.

A lesson for us all as we age in art: you may not make the same way, you may not even look to the rules, but you riff and riff and riff. Such is life, isn’t it?

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