Dance Fever; A Group of Older Dancers Has Got a New Lease of Professional Life Thanks to Three Young Choreographers. ABBIE WIGHTWICK Meets the People Behind the Project

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Byline: ABBIE WIGHTWICK

IF YOU'RE a certain age and heading for the dance floor, people may assume you're going to be doing the waltz or the foxtrot. But a group of dancers, aged 52 to 67 from Cardiff-based Striking Attitudes dance company, is planning some very contemporary moves.

They are teaming up with younger choreographers for their new production Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark Wood which opens at Chapter Arts Centre before going on tour. The main parts of the production are choreographed by 64-year-old dancer Caroline Lamb, who has worked for Welsh National Opera, television and theatre.

But she also called in three choreographers in their 20s and 30s to stage part of the dance.

Jessie Brett, Catherine Young and Jo Young, have been challenging the dancers to do things they thought they'd forgotten.

"Dancing, like football, is a profession where your professional life is quite short," explains Caroline, who also dances in the show.

"The idea is that the young choreographers are coming from a different point in their careers. The general perception is once you're 40-plus your career as a dancer is coming to an end. Most of us can't do high kicks anymore but we can still dance and, as older dancers, we have life experience. We know who we are while the younger choreographers are still finding that out." The performers are nine professional dancers not yet ready to hang up their shoes.

"As an older dancer you don't get offered work and the point of Striking Attitudes is to provide work worth watching," explains Caroline.

As well as working with older professional dancers the dance company also runs workshops in the community to help keep people on their toes. Previous projects have included film and theatre with groups across Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys.

"There is community work being done with older dancers but very little professional work," explains Caroline.

"If it's your profession it's a terrible thing to lose what you do. If you're a dancer you're defined by your physicality and as that changes it is a struggle. Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark Wood is an unusual project. With more people living longer perceptions are changing - 50 is the new 40."

Dance is not just good to watch but also a good way to stay fit and healthy, she says.

With a growing elderly population now is a good time to challenge ideas about who can do it. The three young choreographers working on Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark Wood, got the older dancers doing things they thought they'd forgotten, Caroline says.

"We've been challenged and reactivated.

They've asked us to do things some of us thought we couldn't do anymore like going down to the floor and getting back up again gracefully. …