Two little girls stand in the middle of the stage. They open a book of fairy tales and begin to read a familiar story, “Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful young princess and an ugly old lady.” Out of the shadows, two crones creep up behind them. Will the girls flee, frightened by the look of age and the stories description of wicked witches? Or will they learn, along with the audience, that aging brings gifts of understanding, community, and its own kind of beauty? Dancing With Crows Feet, the premier production by Arts and AGEingKC, aims to replace negative stereotypes of aging women with positive images.
Dancing With Crows Feet grew out of Deb Campbell’s desire to confront ageism and the popular conceptions of older women as no longer beautiful, capable, or strong. Campbell, the founder of Arts and AGEingKC, says, “Our culture is hung up on fairy tale images of youth. Older adults are often portrayed in the media as boring at best. Older people have stories, ideas, thoughts, abilities, and feelings. By telling these stories, along with powerful mythic images, we can reimagine what it means to live a long and full life.”
Presented at the KC Fringe Festival, the prestigious International Congress on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine in San Francisco, and the Southeast Asia Global Conference for Integrated Care in Singapore. Dancing With Crows Feet is narrative and dance performance with original music that weaves personal stories with timeless myths. Older women share life-affirming and empowering tales about aging, community, and what it means to live a full life. Crows fly through the stories and across the stage as symbols of the overlooked and unexpected gifts found in growing older. It is sewn together with music, puppets, and dance, creating a celebratory tapestry that offers an alternative to damaging images of aging.
Naomi, a performer in Dancing With Crows Feet, says, “As older women we have all these things we want to say and no one cares. In Dancing with Crows Feet we get to say it! We perform and people listen. They laugh and applaud and maybe learn a little bit too.”
Dancing With Crows Feet is just one of many projects led by Arts and AGEingKC. Research into the positive effects of arts engagement for older people led Deb Campbell and her colleagues to launch in 2008, helping aging adults from all walks of life and income access participatory arts. “We aim to enhance the quality of life and improve physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health outcomes through creative aging across the lifespan,” says Campbell.
You can learn more about Dancing With Crows Feet here, and Arts and AGEingKC here.