Moving Art: An Ongoing Exploration

Where do dance and visual art intersect?

AFTA Teaching Artists Nancy Havlik and Donna McKee explore this question in their program Moving Art.  Originally developed for active older adults with a grant from the Metlife Foundation, the series has been redesigned to suit the physical and cognitive changes those in our partnering centers are experiencing.  Participants explore the work of 20th century artists like Jackson Pollock and Paul Klee through movement and original art-making.

The new pilot premiered last winter at East County Community Center in Silver Spring, MD.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDlFerVbXlg

This summer, participants at The Kensington Club in Rockville, MD experimented in the program  with paint, charcoal and collage.  Most of all, they loved to dance; especially Bill, who found in Teaching Artist Nancy a nimble partner.

Where is Moving Art headed next?  You’ll find us at The Support Center in Rockville, MD, where we look forward to exploring the works of Spanish artists with the community’s Hispanic population.


Giving Voice to Memory

Women at Long Branch Senior Center celebrated Women’s History Month this March in a series of storytelling sessions with Teaching Artist Candace Wolf.  In her program “Giving Voice to Memory”, seniors explored their personal identities as women, the impact of women through time, and the potential for women in the future.  Candace recorded their conversations and created a long-form poem that the women performed for other seniors at the center during a culminating event.

When asked what she learned from the experience, one participant responded “I learned that we are all the same.  You look around and you don’t know this…we are from different countries but we share the same experiences, many of us coming to this country from somewhere else and having to raise our children.”

Read on for an excerpt from their group poem.

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Being a woman means to believe that you can do anything you set your mind to.

Being a woman means that you help populate the world.

Being a woman means striking out on your own and saying, “I think I can do that!”

Being a woman means you bear the children and you nurture them.

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Being a woman means having STRENGTH for activity and for life.

Being a woman means to be esteemed and loved.

Being a woman means having a strong work ethic.

Being a woman means making sure dinner on Sunday is worth dying for! Then you can relax before you have to go back to work on Monday.

Being a woman means we’ve come a long way! There was a time when women had no say, whatsoever.  We just had to keep quiet. But since Women’s Suffrage, women are able to voice our own opinions.

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Being a woman means to experience a lot of hardship. A woman knows what it takes—coming from nowhere—to get where she want to go in life, and how hard it is.

Being a woman means to care for the children and teach them to read. We do the housework and scrub the floor. A woman’s pots and pans are always clean and shining.

Being a woman means you can go back to college and try your hand at different careers.

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Being a woman means that your labor should never be degraded. Being a woman means all your work should have dignity. My grandmother carried milk cans on top of her head and walked the streets selling milk. She did all sorts of things to make a living. I did domestic work. I did it with pride. I raised children. We women are actually pretty powerful.

Being a woman means there is no shame in any job, as long as you’re making an honest living, and as long as you love what you do. Being a woman means getting up early in the morning and going to work every single day, Monday to Saturday,  until you retire. Being a woman means you never get tired!

Being a woman means you can go beyond your mothers’ and grandmothers’ generation. Being a woman means you can train for different professions.

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Being a woman means having a lot of courage to come to a new country with just one suitcase and starting life over. Being a woman means putting food on the table and clothes on the backs of yours children. Being a woman means the sky is the limit. I work hard and now I can say to the world that: “I’M A WOMAN! HEAR ME ROAR!”

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Photos by Stephanie Williams Images


Silver Singers Perform at Chinese New Year Celebration

AFTA’s Silver Singers, a movement and music ensemble comprised of older adults from the Family Matters Asian Senior Center in Washington, D.C., performed for their center’s annual Chinese New Year celebration.

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The group, lead by AFTA Teaching Artist Anthony Hyatt, is frequently invited to perform at special events.  Most recently they sang at the mayor’s Annual Senior Holiday Celebration at the D.C. Armory.

At the Chinese New Year celebration, the Silver Singers performed two songs: “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music, which they had carefully prepared in English, and “Gong Xi, Gong Xi”, a traditional Chinese folk song celebrating the new year.  They closed with a group dance accompanied by Hyatt on the fiddle.

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Anthony and AFTA Director Janine Tursini were invited to “feed the dragon” for luck in the new year.

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We hope this new year brings the Silver Singers continued joy, music and friendship, and we thank the Family Matters Asian Senior Center for inviting AFTA to join this special celebration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIh64RNOKoQ


Voices Far and Wide: Stories from our Teaching Artists

Anthony Hyatt, Songs of Our Lives

The Support Center – Rockville, MD

After we all sang “Auld Lang Syne,” I played “What Are You Doing On New Year’s Eve?”  One gentleman came up to join me in singing.  It turned out that he has a beautiful voice.  I thanked him and he replied, “I’ll bring it next time!”

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Joan Hampton Fraser, Creative Writing

Lewinsville Adult Day Health Care Center – McLean, VA

Today John’s writing was filled with personal meaning.  He had a recent fall and he wanted to talk about it.  He used imagery from the reading for the day to access the turmoil and losses he has been experiencing and he identified his family as a source of strength.  He laughed easily with tears in his eyes when one group member offered that perhaps “bump on the head” had helped him open up.  The group rallied around him, offering him support and understanding.  The conversations between group members began to flow. It was a beautiful and poignant moment.


Peter Burroughs, CoOPERAtion

Long Branch Community Center – Silver Spring, MD

The group took quickly to the idea of telling the story from “Carmen”.  Fernando played Escamillo and Maria played Carmen.  Other participants sang, danced and marched to music from the opera.  Maria played castanets, improvising as the story was told, and Fernando used the cape to help create his character.

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Carol Siegel, Expressive Arts

Alexandria Adult Day Services Center – Alexandria, VA

In our session we made old fashioned Valentines. One woman was fairly new to the group and had been recently widowed. She hadn’t shared her feelings with the others. When we made the Valentines, she cut one heart in half and glued it onto a whole heart, staing “This is my heart that  has been broken”.  It was a breakthrough for her in sharing her loss with the group.


Marcie Wolf Hubbard, The Shape of Things

The Kensington Club – Rockville, MD

One participant was very excited about a postcard with an image of a Native American.  She shared with the group that it reminded her of her career with the Department of Health and Human Services.  She talked about the Native American children and how they needed the support and recalled how she convinced her office that it was necessary to provide assistance to them.  We all learned something new about a member of our group that day.

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Nancy Havlik, Quicksilver

Chevy Chase Community Center – Washington, D.C.

Teaching Artist Anthony Hyatt played “Tennessee Waltz” in honor of Patti Page who passed away this week.  The group developed a beautiful dance in tribute by using the improvisation skills we’d worked on.  It happened like magic.  All of a sudden a story of tribute appeared with Dancer Dorothy Levy leaving the stage as the song ended.


Miles Spicer,  Dance and Blues

Downtown Clusters Geriatric Day Care – Washington, D.C.

This session was special.   Teaching Artist Nancy Havlik and I agreed to work around a couple of songs by Thomas Fats Waller.  I played “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.”   Nancy encouraged group member Howard to play some piano for us.  He played “Amazing Grace” with me.  Nancy got the group into a movement exercise, but one of our female participants started in with “Glory, Glory, When I Lay My Burden Down.” This spiritual has a heavy call and response part.  All the seniors joined in.   Nancy and I traded glances and we silently agreed to let them lead us.  I played along on guitar.   The group followed with “Wade in the Water” and soon it was time to go.    We walked around the circle shaking hands and thanking our seniors.  They were still singing.    They were still singing as we walked out, all smiles.  In the years that we have been working with this group we have never been serenaded as the program ended.

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