Doreen McElroy had an unexpected reaction to watching young people dance for her.
McElroy was among the residents of Mountain Lake Seniors Community who took in a rare live performance on April 30.
“I just looked at them. I looked at the dancers, and I felt this great sob in my chest,” says McElroy. “It was so meaningful to me. It touched me deeply.”
She said the reaction was partly because she doesn’t see many young people, and also because she likes seeing people express themselves with movement.
For the members of Slava Doval’s youth group DanceFusion, performing in the parking lot masked and distanced, it was their first time in front of a live audience for 13 months, even though they have been getting together and rehearsing, with pandemic protocols in place, the whole time.
“I introduced the girls and acknowledged the tenderness of getting to perform when we haven’t had a live audience for so long,” Doval says. “We’ve lost two showcase concerts, some of these girls didn’t get to perform for their Grade 11 year, and now they’re graduating. And so I sort of framed it that way, that it was a gift for us to come and perform.”
Dancer Willa Morrison, 18, called the event a “beautiful moment” because she had not performed for so long and because she has not seen her grandparents in the Lower Mainland since the beginning of the pandemic.
Her grandfather died in January, and Morrison says the performance provided an emotional release.
“That was weighing on my mind a little bit more as I was dancing. It was a bit heavy, but it felt really wonderful to kind of get it all out.”
Morrison, who has been dancing with Doval for nine years and is graduating from L.V. Rogers Secondary this year, says she talked with some of the residents after the performance.
“It was a really wonderful after we finished performing, as we were talking with some of them, and one woman, she started crying. It was really lovely. This dance performance was an emotional moment for all of us as performers, but it was really amazing to see that it was having an impact on other people as well. It was just this really amazing sense of community and support.”
Doval also reports tearful conversations with residents after the performance.
“I think the part that was unexpected was the actual real connection, not just performing and then walking away — curtains close and you walk backstage.”
Doval says one of the highlights was when, with no warning for the dancers, she got the audience and the dancers doing some moves together.
“I created it earlier that day, I was just sitting, kind of feeling the music, feeling like, what could we do if you’re just moving your arms or even if you’re just moving your shoulders.”
And it worked, with a few residents only moving their shoulders, and others moving more fully.
“It was our way to bond and make the performance experiential with our audience,” Doval says, “which was just really sweet.”
Sandra Grochowich, life enrichment co-ordinator at Mountain Lakes and the organizer of the dance event, says the residents love having visits from young people.
“It brings so much energy and joy to our residents,” she says.