I have danced for many years – from being told when I was at university that I should be a dancer, to actually finding Dance when I was twenty-eight years old, and now aged seventy finding a new way to dance with arthritis.
In the early years I took as many classes as I could, locally and further afield. I have brilliant memories of summer schools at The Place in London and watching London Contemporary Dance Company rehearse. Dance Base in Edinburgh was in its early years too. Classes were held in a hall within the Assembly Rooms. The Artistic Director Morag Deyes oversaw it grow and take up residence in a purpose built centre in the Grassmarket where it is today. It is a brilliant building with four studios offering a large and varied menu of classes.
I have found many lifelong friends through dance. Myself and some of these friends formed amateur companies, performing our own choreographies alongside those given to us by professional dancers during the nineties.
Alongside technique classes and workshops, I maintained a practice of conscious dance. Five Rhythms was my choice when I was younger, then moving to Movement Medicine and Open Floor which I still do. This practice helped sustain me as years went by and I become aware of arthritis increasingly affecting my ability to move gracefully. Other movement studies especially Pilates have helped me to gain an awareness of my body and the interactions between body mind and spirit.
At the age of fifty-eight I had a right total hip replacement at the Golden Jubilee hospital in Glasgow. This operation was a great success and I was able to recover good movement and dance again quickly.
After this operation I trained as a Nia dance instructor, and subsequently used this learning with other knowledge to develop my class ‘Dance into Relaxation’.
When I turned sixty I joined the Golden class at Dance Base. This was a fantastic opportunity for older dancers. It was Morag Deyes who started this class and, as she herself has said, ‘it grew arms and legs’. Older dancers turned out in large numbers, and in time many ballet classes were offered especially for the mature mover, with another class entitled Platimum.
Then in 2016 came Prime, Scotland’s first semi-professional company for older dancers. Its aim was, and still is, to challenge the perception of what the older dancer can – and indeed should – do!
I auditioned and was lucky enough to be one of that original group. We performed our first work, ‘Tarn’, choreographed by Angus McLean Balbernie, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as well as at various venues in Scotland. The highlight was our trip to Singapore. These were glorious times indeed. Stephanie Green wrote, ‘these dancers are glorious’, and we were! We went on to add to our repertoire with ‘Rollin in the Deep’ choreographed by Morag Deyes, ‘Carry on Dancing’ choreographed by Steinvor Palsson and other works. ‘Carry on Dancing’ was for me a highlight!
By 2018 I realised that I needed to have my left hip replaced. In order to avoid long NHS waiting lists in Scotland and the high cost of private treatment, I went to France.
I again bounced back although perhaps with not quite the same ability.
In February 2020, just before the world was changed by the Covid-19 pandemic, I had a fall. A simple trip at the side of my car. Not simple in the damage I had done. I had smashed my right hip and femur and right wrist! This changed everything for me.
Now the comeback was not so easy. After a second hip replacement, or hip revision as it is called, movement is much more impaired. Flexibility much less and movement slow and ungainly. Gone was the lyrical dancer I was! I felt unable to continue with Prime because I could not keep up, and there are some movements I cannot do.
It was and still is sometimes, a grieving for me. The help comes through movement and dance. My continuous conscious dance practice helps me to come to terms with how I am now and with aging.
The desire to dance is still strong as is the desire to perform and teach. The question for me now is, ‘can I accept the dancer/mover that I am today enough to perform, to show my authentic self?’
To become more creative and return to making my own thing and being seen. When I am dancing – or moving, as I am more inclined to call it now – the answer is yes. My self-confidence comes from movement.
When I asked an old friend recently if what I can do now is dancing or moving, he replied ‘it is what you say it is. If you call it dancing then it is dancing!’
Now in 2023 after the difficult years of the pandemic, I hope to be able to help others with joint problems realise the benefits and joy of dancing.
I am also returning to writing. This was always a refuge for me. It was a diary, a memoir, a place to put my thoughts and feelings. Through some great teachers along the way, I have gained dance skills but also writing skills. To put them together both as a practice and a performance skill is hopefully something I can develop. So at the age of seventy I am perhaps finally emerging!!
Lin Grahame, April 2023
Photo credit: Maria Falconer Photography