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Seniors’ stories told with dance
If Nora Switzer had one wish, it would be to see everyone happy and dancing.
One Trail dance instructor is about to make the 101-year-old’s vision come true.
The Rose Wood Village resident’s life story has formed a backdrop to an upcoming show that uses dance and music to tell tales.
“The Rhythm of My Life” has connected three Greater Trail professional dancers with three local seniors (Switzer, Chuck Clarke, 79, and Richie Mann, 80), who’s stories will be shared through movement in solo performances that are each less than 10 minutes long.
Using interviewed recordings, Stew Ford and Newton Szabo of DeciBel Sound matched acoustics with voice overlay to create the sound that Sarah Joyce, Juliana Marko and Richele Wright move to.
“It’s been so touching, I’ll get teary thinking about it, I will,” said Joyce of her brainchild that is finally coming to fruition.
Joyce has been a dance instructor for 16 years, teaching ballet and modern at Steps Dance Centre for the past seven years.
She’s dreamt of putting such a production on for years now and was pushed into making it a reality when she found time and received just over $2,000 from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance to pay for professional dancer salaries and administrative expenses.
“It’s been a dream of mine to link seniors and their life stories and connect them to youth because there has been such a disconnect, I think, between older people in the community and the younger people,” she said. “I really wanted to use dance to bridge that gap because I think dance is such a special art form that can touch people in different ways.”
Making that connection even stronger, Joyce put a call out to find young dancers who’d be interested in taking on a similar task. Rebeka Krest, Sydney Bruce and Madeline Kinghorn each did interviews with their grandfathers or grandmothers over the phone, which have now been recorded in their own voices and will be portrayed through dance solos as well.
“(Krest) has this beautiful introduction about how her grandfather saw her grandmother walk into the room and she was glowing and looked like an angel,” said Joyce.
The youth received a total of two hours of mentorship from Joyce to gauge ideas or receive guidance. The experience was an opportunity for the girls to really see what it’s like to work as professional dancers.
This form of story telling in some some ways is a lost art, said Joyce, one that she intends to resurrect for two back-to-back shows Sept. 26 and 27 at the J. L. Crowe Secondary School theatre, when musical talent will also round out the evening.
Through early beginnings, people told Joyce she should talk to community leaders, politicians and movers and shakers but she wanted to highlight the beauty of age, experience.
“To me just the human story of getting to 101 is a beautiful story itself and I think we don’t hear enough about it,” she said.
Initially it was tricky finding seniors to work with but a few blind calls later and she found her muse.
“I connected with a lady from Rose Wood and right away she said, ‘Nora is your girl,’” she recalled. “She said, ‘she’s got more spunk in her than I’ve got most days and she’s really lively.’”
Joyce has gotten to know Switzer quite well over these last couple months, which has made this project even more special.
Switzer moved to Trail from Vancouver at 18 years old when her brother got a job at what is now known as Teck. She picked up employment at the former Kootenay Hotel, where she met her future husband, who was also a Teck employee.
“It was kind of a hot time and (Teck) was sending people all over and at that time it was probably fairly unusual for women to travel so far abroad but she went with her husband everywhere – to Peru, Italy and India.”
The former Vancouver dancer dug up a sari her husband gave her from his travels to use as a prop to convey the adventures Switzer has been on.
Switzer’s mobility limitations has made sharing the work in progress challenging so the build up is palpable. But Joyce has made an effort to share as much as possible with the senior and the to have made a remarkable bond along the way.
Both wearing royal blue at their most recent visit, it’s no mistake that these two women share an unspeakable connection.
Reaching 101 has happened very naturally for Switzer, who said she doesn’t feel any different.
The senior will attend one of the upcoming shows to see her story through dance, perhaps a new memory to hold onto.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Switzer from her home at Rose Wood. “I’m excited.”
Tickets will be available at the door but are limited due to capacity. Adults will pay $10 and students and seniors will be charged $5.
The show starts at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 and 27 and is expected to last just over an hour.
To reserve tickets, contact Joyce via email at email@example.com