Sometimes life changes in a major way, but sometimes it keeps changing in many smaller ways and you keep moving, or, as in Pam’s case, you keep dancing!
Pam has always danced. She was teaching dance improvisation in Melbourne 20 years ago when she travelled to Argentina and fell in love with Tango. It was not simply the dance she fell in love with, but everything that surrounded it. “Tango is a social force. It allows all ages and all levels of skill to participate. It is respectful of older people. Dance is an invitation and guidance and a respect of shared space” she says.
Then her husband hurt his back and she was diagnosed with breast cancer with complications associated with her treatment. While she recovered, she noticed that she felt “not in balance”. Tango relies on fine balance and she needed to work on regaining that.
Around that time, they moved to Geelong and discovered the Christ Church community that supports people on the margins of society. Pam notes that these are people without support, or with health problems, homeless or have served prison terms. “They are a colourful group but they all have names and stories. Tango began with those seen as ‘on the edge’ of society, so this, she felt, was the perfect place for her to begin a community Tango group on Monday evenings.
“Over the year as I began to feel better, we established a second group on Wednesdays as a social experiment”. With Dementia Victoria and under the umbrella of Southern Cross dance, Jan established ‘Gentle Tango’. This group is for people who may not see themselves as being able to dance or learn new steps. Here someone with dementia comes with their partner or carer, and both dance. The guidance of an arm, and the music, helps them learn and remember the movements. Pam laughs as she mentions that often this group learn faster than her Monday group.
The group has welcomed people with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other health or movement issues, as well as those who have lost someone or who simply do not like driving at night … all have found a place here, and all dance. Pam uses her knowledge of movement together with understanding what each person is dealing with, to manage the movements so that everyone can participate. “The beauty and vibrancy can get lost in the pain and the disease but it bubbles back to the surface when there is music and dance.
Pam also has a woman’s improvisation group that encourages women to feel more positive about their bodies. “Every older woman I know is unhappy with their body. I tell them how beautiful they are because we have movement”. The women leave bouncing and happy.
Life keeps changing, but dance has been a constant joy, not just for Pam, but for everyone she touches.
With each word said distinctly, she finishes with a simple but profound message: “Every. Body. Can. Dance!”
Photo: Phil Hines Photography