Dr Dance Blog

Older dancing bodies

Posted by on June 4, 2014 at 12:15 AM

I read a paper this morning on older women in dance and it reminded me of an excerpt from Pina – the film by Wim Wenders based on the work of Pina Bausch.  The paper is about “the look of youth” and how women, who are not in their youth, think about their moving, dancing, bodies. Pina Bausch’s dance company included older as well as younger dancers and she used both to create psychologically rich pieces. I recommend watching Kontakthof - Mit damen ind herren ab 65 (with women and men over the age of 65) once you’ve read the paper.


There is a description in the paper of how women in a dance class react to the presence of a mirror in the studio, and hence the reflection of their own bodies. One women says that when she’s at the hairdressers and looking at herself in the mirror, she hides her hands because “they look so old!” (Coupland, 2013, p. 13).



Here’s the abstract


Bodily display and self-awareness are generally mediated by restrictive ideologies of youthful beauty. ‘How do I look?’ is therefore a salient question in terms of personal ageing. Dance makes bodies watchable, while ageing has been claimed to make bodies ‘unwatchable’. Ethnographic research conducted amongst a group of older dancers provides an opportunity to study these ideological tensions empirically, by analysing the discursive representations of older dancers and their teacher. ‘The mirror’ is a productive theme in the data, giving access to understandings of (un)watchability of more and less literal sorts. It proves to be the case that, while dance as a practice for older women remains fitfully tainted by culturally dominant ageist assumptions about the body and ageing, it also opens up far more emancipating ideologies. Older dancers’ articulation of these ideologies are suggestive of how embodied ageing can be reconstrued, well beyond dance contexts.


Reference: Coupland, J. (2013). Dance, ageing and the mirror: Negotiating watchability. Discourse & Communication, 7(1) 3–24 .  


A (very short) extract from Pina:

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