By Steve Sucato
GroundWorks DanceTheater’s newest outreach residency program, Groovin’ with GroundWorks, kicked off on September 29 at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging’s Paul W. Alandt Center in Cleveland. The dance and creative movement program for participants aged 60-95 runs through November 17, 2023, at three Benjamin Rose sites, including East Cleveland at Salvation Army and Gunning Park Recreation Center.
Groovin’ with GroundWorks joins other activities programmed by the over 110-year-old Cleveland-based nonprofit organization at its centers whose mission, from their website, “is to support caregivers and empower all people to age well through research, consumer-responsive services, and client advocacy.”
Funded by an Ohio Arts Council Arts Rise grant, Groovin’ with GroundWorks seeks to balance between open movement (grooving) and set movement exercises to improve participants’ well-being, says Joan Meggitt, GroundWorks’ Director of Education and Community Engagement.
“I don’t want people to feel like they are in a class necessarily,” says Meggitt. “I want them to feel like they are learning, making, and doing, and there is a flow, continuity, and reciprocity in our activities together.”
The hourlong movement sessions are held once a week at the three Benjamin Rose sites. Meggitt facilitates them with GroundWorks Teaching Artist Morgan Ashley, Company Artist Emma Janus, and Teaching Artist Assistant Alyssa George.
As with several of GroundWorks’ education and outreach programs, Groovin’ with GroundWorks sessions will begin with a warm-up exercise inspired by Anne Green Gilbert’s Brain Dance. In it, participants will use their hands to pat themselves to stimulate the central nervous system and blood flow. “It gets them thinking and feeling in their bodies,” says Meggitt.
Session activities to get participants grooving and engaging their creative minds will include: “Tap and Stroll,” which uses chairs and involves participants strolling about the room “stealing” (sitting in) each other’s chairs. Each time a participant steals someone else’s chair, they would riff off the movement done by that person, “Inscription,” in which participants use at least two different parts of their bodies other than their hands to inscribe a name or word in the air space around them, and an exercise Meggitt says involves making noises and reaching out to one another.
Part of the reciprocity mentioned earlier is giving up leadership of sessions at times to the group’s participants, says Meggitt. “They get to initiate an activity and decide to whom that leadership role is passed to next. It is all part of fostering community and having the participants become invested in what they are doing. Community and creativity are at the heart of what GroundWorks does.”
With Groovin’ with GroundWorks, the goal is to engage with an often-forgotten population that might not usually have a regular creative dance experience included in their physical activities. The residency program is another way GroundWorks is Moving Possibility in how dance, movement, and creativity are brought to populations and communities throughout Northeast Ohio.
Photos from Groovin’ with GroundWorks at Paul W. Alandt Center. Photos by Morgan Ashley and Joan Meggitt.