As we all know Covid-19 and lockdown caused everything to stop earlier this year, affecting almost everyone and everything. At the time 50+CDS were half way through our second block of the year with weekly classes taking place down at our new base and home, The Montgomery Theatre in the centre of Sheffield. We joined the masses and closed up shop as they say, knowing that the most important thing at this time was everyone’s safety and wellbeing. But from this decision I had no idea that in fact we would be able to carry on dancing together. I’d never delivered classes online and so it didn’t occur to me that this was an option. However, one member of our group, the lovely Alison, had in fact used zoom and other online platforms in her work and had all the faith and belief that we could transfer online successfully. So with a gentle nudge from Alison (thank you Alison) I took the plunge to transfer the classes online. Using Monday March 23rd as a tester, we officially opened the sessions on Wednesday March 25th and voila! the online classes were born.
Now 4 months, 17 weeks and 50 sessions later here we are celebrating our 50th online session on zoom. It’s because of everyone that’s taken part, all of you who have danced and contributed to this online project over the last 17 weeks, you are who’ve made this the success it has been. It has been a joy to dance, connect and have fun with each and everyone of you every week and you have made my experience of lockdown a joyful one and I am grateful and thankful for that.
The sessions began with our core group in Sheffield but it soon became clear that living in Sheffield was no longer a prerequisite. One of the many advantages to working online, of course no geographical restrictions! So as word began to spread, we grew with new members joining us from Wiltshire, Coventry, Banbury, London and Gatwick, Newcastle, Wales and just down the road in Donny. The sessions have also become intergenerational with 9 under 10 year olds, including two babies and people from every decade from 20’s to 80’s! We’ve had duets and even trios from the same houses with other family members and beloved pets! And throughout the sessions we’ve danced with a minimum of 90 people across Sheffield and beyond.
Dancing online also makes the classes open for people unable to engage in the face-face classes such as people living with illness, injuries and any mobility issues. During this project one dancer took a class from her hospital room at Weston Park telling us to “don’t mind them!” when the nurses were coming in and out. Louise has sadly passed away since then but this proves the power of dancing and connecting together and I would have loved to have seen the hospital staffs reactions as she was throwing her moves and shapes!
There have been countless moments of joy these classes have brought me and hope for you all as well. From Ghost Dances to You Give Me Fever, to jumping out of champagne flutes with party hats on to spontaneous dances with teddy bears, dances inspired by gardens and the story of the BFG and of course to the infamous Balkan Beat Box, there’s never been a dull moment between 2 and 3 on a monday, wednesday and friday afternoon.
Thank you so much for all your hard work and constant enthusiasm over the last strange months. It’s been great to have the chance to interact with other people through dance, especially when lockdown was on. It felt good to have the chance to exercise on a very basic level and of course to do creative sharing with others, and finally the discipline of learning your choreography! I do still really miss actually dancing in the same physical space as others, but this has been a brilliant substitute
I am still really enjoying the sessions. I was sceptical about creative and improv at first. However, I have found them beneficial in a number of ways. Despite doing sport all my life, I have very little awareness of my body and movement. Your sessions have allowed me to focus on the interrelationship of body parts and movement, and to experiment with these interrelationships and when improvising I have been able to become lost in the moment and experience something of a childlike playfulness.
I’m sorry I can’t be at the party tomorrow but I do want you to know how much I have enjoyed being part of your over 50s online dance group. When Ella gave us your name, mainly as a possible source of help for my mother-in-law, I couldn’t have imagined that it would result in me dancing!!! After we had arranged that I would try out the the class, I was really nervous, especially at the thought of other people seeing my halting attempts at following a routine. Now months later, as I watch myself on the zoom film, I realise that I should have entered the project with joy and enthusiasm, not fear and trepidation. It took a few classes for me to settle in but I can now say what a pleasure it has been and I’m so grateful, Lucy, for your continuing help and understanding.