“I’m Still Here”


Over the past three months, I’ve had the honor of publishing 16 interviews with dancers over age 50 in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. What follows here is a particularly potent morsel from each interview:

Click on photos to read full interview.

Linda Austin

“I’ve always gotten just enough to keep me going but not enough to make me comfortable. The carrot is always just ahead.”



Mike Barber

“Looking back on my experiences and how I’ve grown and changed, why wouldn’t that continue? My body may be increasingly limited in what it can do but I’ll still find ways to express myself through movement.”



Gregg Bielemeier

“If my body falls apart, I won’t be doing the same things, but I have no desire to retire from the stage. There will always be something I have to do or say.”



Rubina Carmona

“I’m going to keep dancing as long as I can move. It comes down to charisma and presence. The dance becomes subtle. Less becomes more. When you’re young and dancing, you throw in as many things as you can possibly think of because you can. And then as you develop you hopefully mature.”



Patrick Gracewood

“As I’ve gotten older, peers have stopped dancing instead of changing their definition. My friend Roy Shabla has a beautiful line in a poem: ‘If you find you no longer believe, enlarge the temple.’ That’s what Carolyn and I have done as our bodies and interests change. We’re discovering different movement pathways that keep expanding.”



Mark Haim

“My advice for dance artists in general would be to accept the fact that this field does not move vertically. You don’t get pay increases the older you get. You don’t move up and get promoted. You go up, down, across, backwards. It’s like the Stephen Sondheim song: ‘I’m Still Here.’ If you accept that fact, then you can enjoy the ride more.”



Jamey Hampton

“The older you get, the more knowledge and wisdom you have in your body and therefore the more expressive you can be. And yet your body is less mobile and less capable of delivering that expression. So it becomes almost a mathematical equation or riddle to solve. If you graph it, that intersection is fuzzy for me, and I’m compelled to keep pushing it further out.”



Shirley Jenkins

“I battle the sense that people have put me out to pasture or that I’m old school or not what’s ‘in’ any more… Every day I wake up, and wherever I am, I continue to pursue the craft.”



Wade Madsen

“Push yourself, get up and be willing to do the work, enjoy the work and seek the work. And when you do that, recognize it and appreciate it. Too many people, myself included, get down on themselves for not doing enough. But when you perceive what you’ve done, appreciate it.”



Carla Mann

“I am so lucky to have found something that continues to be compelling and interesting to me. If you have that in your life, you’re set. Sometimes that’s hard for people to find, and some people never find something that they continue to want to dive into. Dance has been that for me.”



Tere Mathern

“All artists, and particularly dance artists, struggle with the value of their art form in our society and culture. So I began questioning that and wondering, ‘Gosh, should I continue to do this?’ It is very hard to continue producing your own work year after year. And maybe once in a while you get produced or presented or get a grant. Funding and support so often comes in small amounts, just enough to fund the current project and give you some sense of validation and success.”



Eric Skinner

As I get older I keep thinking, ‘Am I doing dance for me or is there something I want to leave behind?’ I haven’t quite figured that out yet.”



Melissa St. Clair

“I want to see if dance still has richness for myself as opposed to an audience. And if it has the ability to capture, embrace and share, then so be it. But it’s a journey again. I feel like I’m going the long route back home.”



Carolyn Stuart

“I find that contact and improvisation suit me. Contact reminds me that I exist in relationship and improvisation invites my essence out to play. Contact improvisation has taught me that awareness and curiosity are enough to take me where I need to go. The process fits. I’ve learned that I prefer mutuality to competition.”



Christian Swenson

“In working with younger people, I like to serve as an example: a grown man doing something totally physical and crazy that involves hard work, sweat and has nothing to do with getting points or impressing people.”



Iris Tansman

“Dance is, and has always been, about joy. I dance because I want to share my joy.”



Click here to learn more about the Dancing Over 50 Project.