There’s a buzz in the studio as the members of Mosaic Performance Company warm-up. Their minds still very much on their appearance at the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells, London a few days before.
“I read all the Wells books – Rosanna Joins the Wells, etc. – when I was 10-years-old. The fact we were dancing there was quite a thrill,” said Jeannie Sowler, who loves being able to dance regularly again after a long break.
Mosaic have previously worked with Sadler’s Wells’ Company of Elders. The renowned performing arts venue invited the 50+ group to apply for a slot at its Elixir Extracts Festival, which celebrated lifelong creativity.
Roz Taylor said it was unbelievable they’d been chosen.
“When we finally came to dance it felt right and it went without a hitch. We were really pleased.”
The piece, called Acorn, was based on Robert Macfarlane’s poem from the book The Lost Words. The book was written in response to nature words that were removed from the junior dictionary.
Laura McGill, the company’s choreographer and tutor, said the subject resonated with the group.
“The poem is about how the biggest and mightiest objects and forces are made up of the smallest things. ‘One is to many, as coin is to money, as bird is to flock...’ We’re using this imagery to show how as a group they are stronger together.
“We have moments celebrating the individual, but we also look at how they come together to move and share in a collective experience. The piece has been developed with the dancers and follows their interests creatively. It will celebrate our human connection to the natural world as well as to each other.”
The 13 dancers had been rehearsing weekly since January, with an early presentation of the work at Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich going down well. They will perform Acorn again at Norwich Playhouse, Thursday 25 July, as part of The Garage’s Turnstyle showcase.
Also performing on the night will be The Garage's participation dance companies Full Tilt, D4Dance, Connect, Mini Pulse, Flex and a premiere performance from our new inclusive dance company In Cahoots alongside performances from guests Rural Pulse and Passion Productions.
Janice Sinclair, who joined Mosaic four years ago, said it was an amazing experience.
“We were extremely excited in the weeks coming up to the performance and I was a nervous wreck on the Saturday, I was so over-excited. The minute I met everybody at the station I calmed down and we had the most wonderful day.”
Dancing at such a famous venue was a little daunting admitted Helen Wright, particularly swapping the familiar surroundings of The Garage for Sadler’s Wells.
“It was a challenge but with Laura’s help we got there. It was absolutely extraordinary. It takes it to another level to be able to perform for an audience. You feel you’re in this enchanted world… working together. It’s such a wonderful achievement, you feel elated afterwards.”
Mosaic was born out the Contemporary 50+ dance class which takes place 1PM-2.30PM every Friday. Due to the strength of the work produced, Laura and The Garage began looking for opportunities to showcase the group. They have produced more than 15 dance works and mostly perform in Norwich, both in traditional theatres as well as outdoor and site specific work.
There are currently 13 members aged from the early 50s to late 70s and there have been people in their 80s in the past. They joke about not being as athletic as they once were and leaving the “leaping about to Beyoncé” to the younger groups they’ve worked with like Full Tilt.
They’re serious about showing other groups how well over 50s can dance. What they may lack in movement, they more than make up for in experience, which breathes added life into work. But Mosaic isn’t about age.
While a lot of dance groups for older people focus on reminiscence work, Laura loves to stretch the company. Laura said: “The classes and Mosaic were born out of a need to make sure people over 50 felt included in contemporary dance and had opportunities to explore their creativity through dance, but we don't make work about being older.
“We’ve got retired professionals, people who are new to dance… I think people join because they want to be challenged creatively as well as physically and are interested in performing. I think they stay because the group is tight-knit and supportive. Many make close friendships.
“It is as much about the social aspect as the work. The group works to a high standard and I think they are very proud to be members of Mosaic and the pieces they make. Over the years I have seen the standard of creativity and performance skill get higher and higher.”
Janice had always been interested in dance. When a fellow retired friend suggested she join her at The Garage’s Contemporary 50+ class, she was hooked.
“I’m the new girl really in comparison to this lot,” she laughed. “For me, it’s wonderful to dance with other people who also love to dance and to work towards a piece as well, I particularly love improving all the time with these young ladies.”
Jeannie used to dance regularly until she was in her early 20s. She started looking for classes as soon as she retired 16 years ago, joining The Garage’s Contemporary 50+ group before Mosaic existed.
“I knew I wanted to do it again. It was the joy of dancing for a start. It’s therapy isn’t it? Having an inspiring teacher and the opportunity to perform makes me happy.”
For Roz, who found herself with a day off in the week, it was about structure first. She knew she wanted to do something dance-related.
“Mosaic was an extra and when I went along I realised how much I enjoyed it. It was something I’d never done before but something I got completely lost in. I could forget everything on the outside and that time was good for my wellbeing… It doesn’t matter who you’re dancing with or what you’re doing and everybody’s so lovely.”
Helen’s no stranger to dance, having done ballet for about 10 years while a child. Lack of time meant she had to stop while preparing for her A-levels. Many years later she studied Margaret Morris Movement, a form of contemporary dance more allied to ballet.
When she couldn’t find local classes, she tried the Contemporary 50+ class instead.
“For me, it is a fitness thing as well as an enjoyment thing. I needed something for my wellbeing, to let off steam, to just let go. There’s also the other side of it, when you’re working towards something it can be quite the painful process. But it’s worth it because it’s so rewarding when you get there and together you create something special that’s unique.”
The Mosaic Performance Company meets at The Garage, 2.30PM-4.30PM, every Wednesday during term-time. It’s open to new members and people are welcome to come to try a taster session. The new term starts in September. Click here for more details.
Photos: Wayne Savage / Teele Photography