When watching a professional dance company perform, it is often impressive to witness dancers at the peak of physical fitness. Choreographers make the most of the young, pliable bodies on offer, and constantly push boundaries of what a dancer should be able to do. Jump higher, bend further, spin faster. Because of this, it is rare to see a dancer performing very far past the age of about forty, when opportunities start to become increasingly limited.

Three Score Dance Company © Zoe Manders
Three Score Dance Company
© Zoe Manders

What happens, then, when an older person still wants to be involved in dance performance? There are many community dance programmes and classes available, the majority of which tend to be focussed on supporting health and activity in older people. These can range from energetic Zumba classes to seated dance in nursing homes, and can benefit physical, social and mental well-being. Performing opportunities, however, are a little harder to find. 

It was the need for quality performance opportunities that inspired Saskia Heriz and Christina Thompson to create Three Score Dance Company in 2011. Based in Brighton, the company create high quality work for dancers aged over sixty. The members come from a variety of backgrounds, some with a history of dance experience and some who have never danced before. While they may have different reasons for joining the company, it is apparent that one shared goal is to make work that will be respected and enjoyed by audience and company alike.

Three Score Dance Company © Zoe Manders
Three Score Dance Company
© Zoe Manders

Since its inception, Three Score Dance Company has worked with a number of renowned choreographers, such as Ben Duke, winner of the 2011 Place Prize for choreography, and most recently Yael Flexer. Flexer's work for Three Score Dance Company, Après Moi, was recently performed as a curtain raiser for her own company performance. Watching Après Moi, it is clear to see that the company are working with high artistic standards and are not afraid to tackle serious and challenging work. The piece was full of Flexer's trademark off-beat humour, as well as some unexpectedly emotional content. The song Après Moi by Regina Spektor plays and a line proclaims “I must go on standing...”. This seems to reflect the relative fragility of the bodies on stage, but also supports the determination of the group to not let this fragility define their actions, and to show that their age is not an obstacle but an asset in this instance.

Three Score Dance Company © Zoe Manders
Three Score Dance Company
© Zoe Manders

Older performers bring a different energy to a performance; artistic director Jason Keenan-Smith has said that while younger dancers are experienced in movement but less so in life experience, the life experience of the older dancers “brings a richness to work with which I really enjoy”. This life experience is something that is taken for granted in acting and other professions, where age and experience are seen as qualities to be celebrated. So why not do the same for dance? While some companies are embracing different ages in performance (For example, Vincent Dance Theatre's Motherland cast includes a girl of twelve and a woman in her sixties), for the majority, it does not seem to be a priority. Three Score Dance are showing that older people can make a valuable contribution to the dance world, and not just in a community setting.

Three Score Dance Company © Zoe Manders
Three Score Dance Company
© Zoe Manders

The company is performing as part of Brighton Festival 2014, giving dance for older people the publicity and credibility it deserves to have. It is a reminder that dance doesn't always have to be a display of athletic prowess. In making visible those bodies that have most experienced the emotions so often portrayed through dance, we can witness true and lived performance.

Three Score Dance Company is supported by South East Dance in association with Brighton Dome with additional funding from Sport England. For more information, visit their website.