Embracing Life in Dance
Second-chance education in a nutshell: I move, therefore I am.
Arts and cultural mediation: Dance is a global language.
 Researching dance on-site: Dance as a ritual, medicine, and elixir of life
A dancer performing at age 65 ? Why not. At the AGE COMPANY.
The soul inspiring the body: Later works, expressed in dance.

I move, therefore I am

The career of a late starter
It all began at the ImPuls Tanz Festival in Vienna. I was watching the dancers from the gallery, not yet daring to participate in a workshop. First, I was already past forty. Second, dance had a rather negative image among intellectual writers at that time. Then I daringly participated in a workshop run by Harmen Tromp, renowned dancer and co-founder as well as co-director of Tanztheater Wien (Vienna Dance Theater).
A few months later, dance workshops started to become a continous part of my life: Urban Tribal Dance with Charleston Marquis, Belly and Swirl Dance with Fawzia as Rawi, Shamanic Dance with Hiah Park, Haitian Dance with Karine LaBel, annual ImPuls workshops with Elio Gervasi, Martin Kilvády, Charmeine LeBlanc, Terence Lewis, Milton Myers, Andreja Rauch, Ted Stoffer, Doris Uhlich, Angélique Wilkie, Samantha van Wissen, and many more. Last but not least, workshops with Ismael Ivo and Koffi Kôkô.
Since 2000, I have participated four times at the international dance workshops with Koffi Kôkô in Ouidah, Benin. They always take place in the first part of January.
Since 2008, I have been a performer with the AGE COMPANY, which I co-founded.

Dance as a Global Language

I have organized and co-organized dance events in Vienna, featuring Corea, Benin, and Malaysia.
“Trance Formation”, a shamanic performance with Hiah Park, at the Odeon Theater in Vienna. Hiah Park stated in an interview for NOVA (Ö1, Austrian Radio): “Shamans see the invisible, hear the inaudible and touch the intangible.“
“Daedong Kut“, ritual performance with Kim Keum-Hwa, “National Living Treasure” from Corea. “Kut” is a Corean shamanic ritual regarded as a powerful process of cleansing penetrating anxiety, conflicts, and confusion, thus re-establishing the lost balance in the individual and society.
Gèlèdè, Dance of Masks, in a stage version by Koffi Kôkô, Tanzquartier Wien. Gèlèdè from Benin, a republic in western Africa, is on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
For more, see “Dance as a ritual, medicine and elixir for life”
“Spellbound. Odissi live”, Performance and workshop of Sutra Dance Theatre, Kuala Lumpur, at Salvator Saal (Salvator Hall), Vienna. The Sutra Dance Theatre, part of the Sutra Foundation, ist the most important cultural institution in Malaysia. The Sutra Dance Theatre was founded in1983 by Ramli Ibrahim.

Dance as a ritual, medicine, and elixir for life

I researched in Benin, Brasil, Malawi, and Marocco for an 80-minute radio feature.

Danced Meditation, Benin.
Quidah. Politicians, kings, high priests, musicians, and dancers gather at the beach. Since 1996, Vodou has been acknowledged as state religion in Benin, a western African republic, marked by January 10, official religious holiday.
Koffi Kôkô, dancer, choreographer, and initiated priest:

"In the African culture of Vodou, meditation does not mean to close one’s eyes and mouth, and sit still. During the ceremony, we use dance to communicate. Dance is our prayer, this is the philosophy.”

Vimbuza, dance against disease

A visit to a healer in Malawi.

The “waiting room” consists of a gray pad lying in red sand. Sitting on it are five younger women in blouses and wrap skirts, with their “instruments for treatment”, a cup with herb infusion, a bowl with cassava flour, a mud-green blanket, a plate with sand and dried herbs, and jingle bells. The women are waiting for the anesthesists to arrive, i.e. the musicians. It is a cool evening, which means that the drums need to be warmed over the open flames. Then, everything is ready. Mary Sayenda, the director of the Vimbuza clinic in Gombe, Malawi, makes one of her patients inhale herb fumes and covers her with a blanket. The drummers start playing, supported by the village community’s singing and clapping. The villagers have gathered around the “clinic”. Mary lifts the blanket from her patient and covers her body with herb infusion. The patient gets jingle bells on her belly and ankles. Then, Mary draws a circle around the pad, using cassava flour: This is the stage, the arena, the treatment room. The patient will dance within this circle to get rid of her disease, often called “big, big head ache”.
US anthropologist Steven Friedson calls this form of obsessiveness “institutionalized trance” because trance there is an accepted part of culture, not something pathological. In an interview for my radio show, he said: “In many african cultures esthetics and healing are not seperate areas of knowledge and understanding, but mixed together in profound ways. Healing is still an art form in Malawi, because it involves esthetic forms as part of the medical technology.”

LIla de derdeba

A healing night with the Gnaoua in Marrakesh.

Lila, a codified obsession ritual, starts at sunset and ends at sunrise. It is the most spectacular ceremony of the Gnaoua, one of Marocco’s oldest mystic Islamic brotherhoods. Typically, the Gnaoua use drums and rattles as musical instruments. The most important instrument is a three-string lute, called guimbri, which only the maalem, the master and trance specialist, may play during Lila ceremony.

It is true that Gnaoua music has been a sales hit. Gnaoua are booked by five-star hotels, they have become part of the tourism industry. But if I could repeat and relive events in my life, Lila of Marrakesh would definitely top the list.

Samba de Roda, Brasil

First-hand on-site review in Recôncavo, Salvador de Bahia, under Katharina Döring’s guidance. She is a music ethnologist and specialist on Samba de Roda.

Samba de Roda, primordial mother of samba, started in Recôncavo, former core area of slave trade, tobacco and cane plantations, as well as cane sugar refineries. Musicians, singers, and dancers form a circle (Roda). Anyone can step into the center of the circle to dance. The correct movement of the feet is the most important thing when doing the Samba de Roda. The feet are moved quickly to the front, to the back, and to the side to create the impression that the dancers hover above the ground, without ever losing contact with the ground. The hips, shoulders, and the head move independently from the feet.

Dance for the Powerful Mothers, Gèlèdè, Benin,Western Africa

Savè is a small town in the north of the country. It’s Saturday night. Hundreds of people have gathered on the market square. Traders sell food and drinks. A neon light illuminates the gate made of palm leaves, where suddenly Efe, the big mask, appears. The mask hesitates, then enters the arena to dance and sing songs featuring historical events, Yoruba deities, political incidents, and everyday observances. It is a small miracle I can witness this Gèlèdè night. Getting there was anything but easy. It’s the usual story, happening so often when trying to go to Africa. First, I’m told it’s a no-go, it’ll be a long shot, there will be problems, it’ll be chaotic. In the end, I’m there, blissful and happy. This is what counts for me, not what it took to get there.
Gèlèdè, a total work of art comprising opera, street theater, cabaret, and ritual, are performed to honor the “primordial mother”, who is a synonym for “regulating life principle. This is not about the biological sex. It’s about the “female principle”. The Yoruba, one of the biggest ethnic groups in western Africa, believe that women have double power that they can use in a positive and in a negative way. Out of respect for this power, women are called “our mothers”, which western literature has often mistranslated as “witches”. The Gèlèdè ritual has men and women dance and sing, calling on the generosity and solicitude of women to help the community in droughts, childlessness, and other problems.
Today, this worldwide rather unique mask performance is practiced in Togo, Nigeria, and Benin. UNESCO added the Gèlèdè of Benin as one of the first cultural forms of expression to the Intangible Cultural Heritage List.


 Christian Bednarik Christian Bednarik
Getting old(er) is neither an achievement nor a disease. It’s part of life. We older people don’t want to be put on the back burner but take part in an active way in all parts of society. We want to be seen and heard. We want to have space in public.
Best-practice example: the AGE COMPANY. People who are fifty and older develop and present contemporary dance performances.
I was not only a co-founder of the AGE COMPANY. I also perform on stage. I indulge in being courageous. 
At present, the AGE COMPANY consists of 13 women. Men haven’t shown interest in joining. Nicole Berndt-Caccivio is our art director. She is a dancer, choreographist, and dance teacher, living in Berlin/Germany.
Since founding the AGE COMPANY in October 2008, the following performances have been shown (also in other Austrian feder states such as Lower Austria, Carinthia, Salzburg, Vorarlberg, and Burgenland): „Richtungswechsel“ (Change of Direction): first performed October 1st & 2nd, 2009 at Theater Spielraum, Vienna, then shown at the “Österreich tanzt” (Austria dances) festival at Festspielhaus St. Pölten, May 2010. 
„Erschreckend? aktuell!“ (Alarmingly Newsworthy), first performed October 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, 2010 at Theater-Spielraum, Vienna.
„Achtung Deadline“ (Mind the Deadline), first performed April  27th, 28th, and 29th, 2012, as well as December 4th & 5th, 2012 at Palais Kabelwerk, Vienna.
„Was heißt denn hier Ruhestand“ (Retirement, What’s That?), is a film by Kurt Brazda (director) and Benjamin Epp (camera). They accompanied the AGE COMPANY for a year, including the performance of Alarmingly Newsworthy. The film premiered April 19, 2012 at Filmhaus Spittelberg, Vienna. 3sat broadcast it September 26, 2012.

The AGE COMPANY as an innovative project strongly correlates with the current demographic development. We’re all living longer.
International studies prove the positive influence of art and creativity on the health and well-being of ageing people. Dance is one of the oldest forms of art and one of the primordial ways of expression. It has been shown that dance is not only a very efficient training for body and mind. Dancing also improves creativity and memory, thus doing its bit to keep up physical and mental mobility.
Up until lately, the option of expressing oneself artistically using contemporary dance has hardly been used by ageing people. It just doesn’t fit the stereotype that society offers to categorize its older citizens. At the same time, contemporary dance didn’t feature in the self-perception of older people. In the meantime, examples from Europe and all over the world have shown that “Old Age” companies are definitely artistically important.