National Conference on Arts and Aging

New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC)
Lucent Technologies Center for Arts Education
Newark, New Jersey, November 3–4, 2006

I registered and was given an eight-pound bag of stuff. Then I was carefully led to the location of the conference room. Of the 80-odd people in attendance most were seemingly middle aged professional types, directors in the field of mental health, social workers, activity directors, and a smattering of folks who had stand-alone arts-oriented organizations. My best guess is that I was senior by some 20 years to the next oldest person in the room.

We all introduced ourselves. “I am Ruth Grauert representing Art of Motion in Ridgewood, NJ, where I practice Tai Chi, and am executive director of Bearnstow, a summer arts organization in Maine.” I was the only one in the room professing any physical practice, but not the only one with Maine connections. There was a couple from Portland, with whom I exchanged information. There were persons from all over USA.

I ferreted out several dance/acting-oriented organizations—from Minneapolis, the Kairos Dance Company, which is multigenerational; Pearls of Wisdom from New York City, which fosters the telling of life stories; and an “artist/art therapist” from Farmington, Connecticut, who holds the image of Nikolais’ Noumenon as the signal dance spectating event of her life.

Dinner was haute cuisine—beautiful salad and then fish or beef (no vegetarian selection, which I found unenlightened), beautifully served and a creamy pudding dessert. During the meal there was a slide presentation of really great photographs, most of which I could not see since I was seated with my back to the screen (as were a third of the party), several mandatory speeches by the head of NJPAC and the NJ State Arts Council, a wonderfully entertaining address by the award-winning actress Tovah Feldshuh, and table conversation with a couple from Connecticut that was lively and stimulating.

The performance opened with Amatullah Saleem, of Pearls of Wisdom, with a wonderful presentation of her childhood experiences, growing up in Harlem and Brooklyn. Then several dance presentations by Paradigm, Gus Solomon’s company. I feel that the general audience did not fully appreciate the gestural base of Gus’s work, but I surely did—the quiet humor, the fugue-like development, the precision, the gentle operatic spoof—every pedestrian motion ringingly clear right up to the final “finger.”

— Ruth Grauert, Nov. 3, 2006


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