Dance is perhaps the cruelest art form. The physical toll on the body is immense. Most professional dancers, who probably started dance classes in elementary school, have begun second careers by their early 30s.
But we retain the ability to move into old age, even if it's limited. So why should expressive and artistic movement be limited to the young?
Simone Ferro is the chair of the dance department at UWM and says the evening of dance that's happening this weekend at Studio 254 on campus came out of a simple question: "Do you think we can do a concert with only mature women?" The answer was yes, and Dancing on the Ceiling: Solo Performances by Women of a Certain Age was born.
Deb Loewen is the artistic director of Milwaukee's Wildspace Dance Company and one of the soloists. She says having older women do on stage what we expect to see young people do can be a political act - and a way of acknowledging experience and wisdom as well as the passage of time.
"When you're a young dancer, you don't think about counting the number of performances you have ahead of you, what your path might be," she says. "At my age, I know that's a finite number. I see it. There will be a time when I will not do this."
For Beth Corning, the artistic director of Pittsburgh’s CorningWorks and its Glue Factory projects, older dancers are simply beautiful. "The level of subtlety and nuance that a seasoned body can bring is to me breathtaking," she says. "Even as a young dancer, I would look at what I thought were old dancers - in their 40s - and think 'you're beautiful!'"