By Karen Schlick
I’m sitting in a group of seniors, all laughing and excitedly contributing to the story that Don Rieder is scribbling down on chart paper. We look again at the photograph he’s given us.
“Her name is Shirley.”
“She is flirting with the band leader.”
Don Rieder(L), Karen Schlick (C), and Frank Buchanan (R) at WordDance Class.
Photo by Cynthia Phillips, Glass Eye Photography
Is this a writing class? No. It’s part of a program called WordDance. WordDance is a creative movement and group storytelling experience designed for seniors based on the internationally recognized program called TimeSlipstm. TimeSlipstm was founded by Anne Basting over 15 years ago in the United States, and is now used in over 20 countries around the world. Don is a Certified TimeSlips Facilitator.
We started this session with some stretching and moving, making sounds and laughing to get warmed up. “This part of the experience brings people home to their breathing, their bodies and voices,” Don told me later. “It’s part exercise – we get the joints loosened up - and there is strengthening for balance and stability. But the focus is more on creative movement, and how the movements feel and what memories they bring up that gets people smiling and laughing.” After the movements, there is a short break for tea, juice, and treats. We sit around the table and chat. Then, we move on to the second half of WordDance, storytelling.
Don shows us a photograph of a woman dancing and asks a series of open-ended questions like, “What do you want her name to be?” With the response of “Shirley” from one member of the group, the storytelling begins.
“The stories are surprising, comical, and deeply emotional because the group members are playing off each other’s energy and building on each response,” Don explained. “At the end of a session we know ourselves better, feel more connected and are a bit healthier for having laughed and moved and been part of a groupWe create two short stories, with much laughter and discussion, and then it is time to go. Don collects the notes and says these stories and the photos that prompted them will become a large book that will be shared at The Old School.
WordDance is sponsored by Northwood and the Northwood Foundation and runs on Saturdays at the Old School, from 2-4 pm until May 27. Drop-ins are accepted, but registration is appreciated. Contact the Old School at 889-2735 for more information.