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17 Oct 2014 | DanceEast

Resident DanceEast performance group, the Elderberries, a contemporary dance group for mature adults, recently returned from Sadler’s Wells Elixir Festival, 12-15 September, where they performed Night Alarm, an original piece choreographed by Mary Davies and the company. 

The Elixir Festival is a celebration of lifelong creativity and older artists in dance. The four-day event saw a range of performances on both the Sadler’s Wells main stage and at the Lilian Baylis Studio, a series of participatory workshops and a full day conference. The festival showcased a range of UK and international companies with contributing artists including world-renowned choreographer Mats Ek, director Pascal Merighi and choreography from Hofesh Shechter Company. The Elderberries was one of 20 specially selected groups from over 50 applicants to perform at the festival.

The Elderberries work towards performance projects, devising original material through the creative exploration of various choreographic approaches. The class is led by DanceEast Core Tutor Mary Davies, who is incredibly proud that the group had the opportunity to perform at the festival. The performance piece was inspired by the painting Night Alarm by Charles Cope and a sonata by Poulenc. Ideas developed around the fears and worries that keep us awake at night.

The Elderberries, aged 53 to 75, along with other mature dance companies challenge the preconceptions about what dancers should look like and how they should move. The members have a vast array of dance experience, from absolutely none at all, to childhood activity, to professional dance experience and studying dance at doctorate level.

“Dance is a truly invigorating form of exercise, going to the gym is very tedious and dance not only is good for us but it touches the soul and gives us a chance to express ourselves”. Elderberries member.

“We have a great time and it’s good fun. Our memories aren’t what they used to be, so it’s nice to be able to help each other out and to work together to produce choreography”. Elderberries member.

“Being part of the Elderberries gives us a real sense of achievement; we can work at our own level and do the best we can. With Mary Davies’ artistic direction, when our movement comes together it turns into something beautiful”. Elderberries member.

“The class is not all about self-expression, it’s not anything goes, we are engaging in a very important cultural form which has its own traditions and rules. Whether we know it or not we’re working within these, we’re learning about dance as an art form and developing as dancers”. Elderberries member.

“We are not alone. There are a lot of people doing this kind of work now. To be a part of that community is very important. To be here at DanceEast and to be part of a wider community of dance, dance making and dance activity and in a very professional context, is brilliant and we are very lucky”. Elderberries member.

The Elderberries never imagined that they would be performing in their more mature years. Some had hoped that they would be, but thought it was unrealistic; other members never had the opportunity to dance when they were younger and love that they can dance now. None of them ever imagined they would be able to perform at the prestigious Sadler’s Wells and for all of them it was a life-affirming experience.

The Elderberries recruits for new members every September and there is still a chance to apply for this year. To find out more and to apply, please contact or call 01473 295230. For those who are not ready to commit to the group there is the opportunity to attend Time To Dance, a weekly contemporary technique class for over 50 year olds.