In our society, there are not many spaces to create relationships with people that cross generational boundaries. The people we are surrounded with are usually within our general age range: in school, in the workplace, and even upon retirement. Because of this, we miss out on forming relationships with people who have different lived experiences and have different perspectives than us.
Dance Generators is an intergenerational dance company consisting of USF students and Bay Area community members. The goal of the company is to create a space where people of different ages and generations can form relationships, and connect through movement and creativity.
The company is housed in USF’s performing arts and social justice dance program and open to people with any range of dance and movement experience, or none at all. Liv Schaffer, a dance program faculty member, directs the company and does incredible work inside and outside of USF.
I am a senior performing arts and social justice dance major, and I joined Dance Generators this fall. As someone who grew up in a pre-professional dance program for fifteen years, this type of environment is not what I am super comfortable with. I am used to structure and discipline, but in Dance Generators there are different expectations.
The company still calls for physicality, but also emotional rigor and a willingness to open up and connect with people. We have conversations around people’s personal relationships with age and aging, death, intergenerational relationships, and generational knowledge. Safety and consent are very important in any dance space, but especially when you are physically engaging with people in ways that are initiated by personal thoughts and emotion.
We start rehearsals standing in a circle and passing along a movement. The first person moves their body in any way they choose, usually something slow that gradually warms up their muscles. Everyone else in the circle will copy the movement to their bodies’ ability. This leadership role is passed around the circle and everyone gets a chance to contribute something to the warm up. The exercise grounds and allows me to focus on my fellow dancers and the space we are in, to let go of the rest of my day.
At 17-years-old, first-year kinesiology major Juliette Ng is currently the youngest member of Dance Generators. She began ballet at three years old, so dance has always been a part of her life. But Dance Generators has been a different experience for her.
“It’s a really cool opportunity to connect with people that you wouldn’t normally talk to besides in a family setting. Dance Generators is very much how you want to dance, not how you’re supposed to dance,” Ng said.
The eldest member of the company is 90-year-old Yope Posthumus who has been part of Dance Generators for 10 years. Looking back at his 10 year anniversary of being a member, Posthumus was in good spirits.
“I love the fact that I’m dealing with young students,” Posthumus said of his relationship to the rest of the company. “I’m at the end of my life thinking about wills and stuff like that, and I’m dealing with people who are just beginning their life.”
“Every teacher we’ve had puts their own character in it, Liv has a very nice approach. I really appreciate the informal way she does it, she’s very reachable and that’s very pleasant… Coming to class makes me happy,” Postumus said.
He said he’s noticed the changes people undergo in the group. “Often I see a person going from freshman to senior, going from being very self conscious to being very self aware and confident about themselves and that is a lovely transition to see.”
I am still getting to know Juliana and Yope, and I am grateful that it is happening through dance and creativity. With movement, you can connect with people in ways you can’t with words. Being in Dance Generators has given me a chance to live beyond my everyday embodied experience, go outside of my own perspective, and be a part of something larger than myself. I greatly admire each member and am inspired by watching the other members interact with each other, move according to their bodies, and share in the individual wisdom that each person has.
I am proud that I am challenging myself as a dancer and stepping into spaces that can make me uncomfortable. So far the company has been nothing but a welcoming and safe space, and I am excited to continue growing and learning with everyone.
Dance Generators next performance is during the Performing Arts and Social Justice Fall Dance Ensemble Show, Nov. 17, 18, and 19 at Studio Theater on Lone Mountain. Tickets are available at the Performing Arts & Social Justice website or at the door.