A Wisdom that Needs to be Expressed


In a 14-day whirlwind filled with little sleep and lots of caffeine, I travelled with photographer Gregory Bartning from Los Angeles up the coast to Seattle, interviewing 25 dancers and hosting five public events to finish and promote our Dancing Over 50 Project, a series of interviews and photographs with over 50 dancers over age 50 along the West Coast. This project has been in the works for over two years, and by next summer we hope to turn this puppy into a signed, sealed and delivered book!

The previously finished interviews are available in full here, but I want to share a sneak peek of some words of wisdom collected on our recent journey. Over the next couple weeks I will be sharing a favorite quote and photo from each of the newest interviewees. In other words, stay tuned!

part 1 redo

Alito Alessi

On legacy:

“The work is the legacy. The legacy – not my legacy – is a state of mind that dancing exists in all bodies; all bodies speak, and all bodies have a wisdom that needs to be expressed and needs to be experienced.”


Valerie Baadh Garrett

On success:

“I worked so hard to get ‘there.’ And when I got so I could see it, I realized there was no ‘there.’ My definition of dance is different than it used to be. The fact that I can enter movement, engage movement, lead movement and guide others in movement is a huge gift I use in my work all around the world, whether teaching, giving a lecture, or even educating seniors in fall prevention. And it all goes back to my training.”


Susan Banyas

On motivation:

“My interest has always had a political element. When I went to East Africa when I was young, I saw the way systems operate and oppress. I never got over that. In fact, it motivated my art to be part of a positive experience and a counter force to oppression. I’m more and more committed to that idea. I always want to be part of the protest.”


Ann DiFruscia

On advice:

“Go toward everything. Try everything. There’s no mistake that can hurt you. It’s all experience. Allow yourself to let the experience of what’s being offered wash over you instead of having a preconceived notion of things.”


Tracey Durbin

On older dancers:

“It’s difficult for older dancers to hold on. As much as I have respect for young dancers who are slaves for this art, I have so much respect for the older generation of movers who love what they do, who continue to move and who are so much more youthful than others their age. They have so much to offer. You have to be incredibly brave to dance through the years. It’s such a unique field. But we’re still here. That’s our refrain.”


Pre-purchase your own copy of “Beauty is Experience: Dancing 50 and Beyond.” Expected delivery late 2016.

Dancing Over 50 - final- low res --page-001

One Response to “A Wisdom that Needs to be Expressed”

  1. Gwyn Henry

    Hi Emmaly,

    So excited to discover you and your project, and wanted to tell you about our group, MAE, the Movement Artists Ensemble. MAE is an ensemble of women dancers in Escondido, CA who are moving into their middle years and beyond. Our ages have ranged from 40 to 85, and our dance training is from those with professional experience all the way to those who have no dance background at all. They are bold, talented, creative, expressive people who have things to say and the way they “say” them often rises to the level of ART.

    We are at various physical fitness levels, and believe that one does not wait to “get back in shape” before one dances. After all, as you say, if we are alive and breathing, we are dancing!

    We meet several times a year to create improvised movement sessions, which we film with simple camcorders ourselves, often using multiple cameras which we pass among ourselves as we improvise our movements and expressions.

    I then take the footage home and create what I call experimental moving image video poems. These short videos have been shown in video installations at local galleries, in film screening nights, and one was featured on local public access arts programming.

    I was hoping you might check out the 5-minute video interview of MAE members on my web site: http://choctaw44.wix.com/videoartgwyn#!blank/c10qw
    In the video, MAE members discuss our process. You can also find films to ck out on other pages of the web site.

    Your project sounds fascinating!! So happy to learn of it. Any comments or insights you might have to share would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks so much for the wonderful work you do. 🙂

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