In the spring of 2007, Sarina Condello led a group of 17 travelers into the heart of Ghana to participate

At the heart of my film lays a message about the collective joy expressed in communal dance and how dance has enriched their lives as they age gracefully.

Interview about the Vintage Dancers and Ghana
Interview with Sarina Condello for The Toronto Star September 12, 2008

Who are the Vintage Dancers and how did they come to be?

The Vintage Dancers are a group of gorgeous and extraordinary Jewish Women, between the ages of 62 to 78, that gather one to three times a week in my little home studio so that they can dance like nobody?s watching. My vision in creating the troupe was to provide a creative platform from my immediate community of elders so that they could experience the power and joy of world dance. My work in the arts has primarily focused on dance and the child. Five years ago a neighbor Judy Sarick, 63 years of age at the time, approached me and asked if I would create a class for women her age. During this time I had just lost both of my grandmothers and missed them greatly. I was also interested in developing a class that was filled with joy, spontaneity and world dance. With a desire to be with elders again and my love for dance I immediately said yes and soon enough I had a troupe of 20 Vintage Dancers. In organizing this troupe of dancers I wanted to expand the elder image in my community and influence our held beliefs about getting older. By celebrating these women?s lives through dance I had the opportunity to bear witness to the foundation for my own future aging. Aging is normal and a natural part of our human lifespan. But in this ridiculously youth centered environment we all begin to marginalize our community members around the age of forty. This troupe now has created a special bond through their dancing together. It was strengthened even more once they performed at a Vintage Cabaret, which I directed and produced, performed only by seniors between the ages of 60-90 years of age. For your information studies show that dancing holds off Dementia, Alzheimer's and even makes you smarter through the process neuroplasticity- the brain?s ability to form new connections throughout life!

Why did you go to Africa? I believe you received a special invitation.

The Vintage Cabaret was designed as a fund raiser in 2007 for a small African village in Ghana named Dagbamete where I had studied West African dance drum and dance with the extraordinary Kwasi Dunyo. At the end of the cabaret performance Kwasi entered the dressing room and invited all the Vintage Dancers to his village. That summer I put out an email asking them if they would like to accompany me to the Ghanian village. Within only 5 minutes later I received and email with one word: YES! It was from the unstoppable Sharon Hampson. In total 13 dancers followed me to Ghana this spring. But essentially my reason for going to Africa was an attempt at experiencing on how an elder presence (in Ghana and here in Canada) could support a dance community, promote intergenerational cohesion and witnessing on how the older creative life span approaches.

What were your main activities in Africa, did you have an overall goal?

My main goal in bringing my dancers to Africa was for the women to experience the power and magic of dancing and drumming in the context of a sacred community. I am always driving the message home to them in class that the dance experience is much more than just a series of movements. It is a way of celebrating life, creating connections with other women and expressing their inner feelings. I also make many references to how African dancers come together to give a sense of unity and belonging. The African dance experience is where all walks of life, all ages young, old, rich and poor are invited to celebrate community. This was my goal for my dancers- to experience and witness the African way of celebrating community through dancing. We basically lived in the community, rehearsed our dance, took drum lessons and connected to the villagers. A big part of the experience was performing in the nine day spiritual festival of atonement where the villagers literally danced and drummed for 9 days straight, morning, noon and night. We took a side trip to the coast to visit the Slave castles in Cape Coast. This was a very profound and sad experience for some and for others very disturbing.

What were the highlights, the special moments?

There were three- When Sharon and Lois sang Skinnamarink to the children at the elementary school, when Esther came out to do her dance solo and the crowd of over a thousand Ghanians erupted with a like cheer as if she just scored the winning goal in The Stanley Cup... I am not kidding, the crowd went crazy for her! I do believe that Esther embodied the soul and spirit of a Ghanian when she danced. I will never forget that as long as I live. And of course I will never forget the final rap up party and Sharon?s 65th birthday party, where 15 Ghanaian grandmothers were invited to celebrate in the festivities. The grandmothers all arrived in their very best and colourful formal attire, where they feasted and danced together with the Vintage Dancers under the African moon. The Toronto Bubbies taught them the Hora and the Ghanian grandmothers taught the Vintage Dancers an African dance of celebration. Everybody also shared stories of their lives that were translated to each other.

What do Ghanians and Canadians have in common?

We are all vulnerable, we all get old, we all have fears, we all love our families but most importantly we are both peaceful countries. It is too bad that we as Canadians do not celebrate our world through dancing together. I do know that clubbers and young music lovers still dance together. But the joy in dancing comes from dancing together as a tribe, with all walks of life and all ages. I guess that?s why my Vintage Dancers keep on coming back for more. The power of community and celebration through dancing creates some kind of solidarity, personal empowerment and hope for the future. It also keeps them able, stable, agile and certainly not fragile! I also am saddened how we marginalize our elders, lock them away and keep them separate from the youth. In Ghana young and old not only live together but dance together. It seems so much more natural to me.

Any regrets?

I can say I have the same mantra as Edith Piaff No Regrets! I see even the most challenging moments as gifts to us all. They taught us so muchpatience, compassion, gratitude for our blessed lives here and of course surrenderthere is only so much you can control in Africa. This gave us all an opportunity to experience our imaginative powers and the way to unlock this a purity of heart. Dancing is one way to access all of this. And nothing is more purer than a thousand, peace loving Ghanians and a group of 13 Toronto Bubbies together dancing under the African sky. Integrating joy in our lives and expanding our potential is what keeps me going. As hard as it was in the heat, dust and without our comforts if there was another possibility to harness that kind of experience-I would do it in a snap!

Article in Canadian Jewish News: July 17th, 2008
Seniors Dance Troupe Performs in Ghana


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