DX at the White House Summit on Creativity and Aging

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 3.01.59 PMIn February 2015, Dance Exchange artists Matthew Cumbie and Thomas Dwyer performed a segment from Liz Lerman’s Journey at the 2015 White House Summit on Creativity and Aging. Journey, originally choreographed as a solo, was re-purposed as a duet for Thomas Dwyer and DX artist Benjamin Wegman.

Originally choreographed by Liz Lerman in 1980, Journey is an eight minute performance in which a dancer speaks a monologue adapted from Peter Handke’s play Self Accusation, charting the emergence of consciousness, self-awareness, and self-control in a developing individual, and by extension, the human species: “I came into the world. I became. I was begotten…I stepped out of nature. I became. I became unnatural. I came to my history…I made myself what I am. I became responsible for my history.”

Journey was performed in the opening session of the NEA Summit on Creativity and Aging in America and set the stage for the day to follow. Cumbie and Dwyer, whose ages span 50 years, offered audiences an opportunity to reflect on the journeys we take in a lifetime.

Cumbie says of this experience, “It was an incredible process working alongside Thomas in this duet version of Journey. I had a hard time learning the material – I don’t really consider myself a repertory dancer, so learning other people’s movement can be challenging. In addition, this piece was made and restaged by Liz Lerman –  which means I had to pick up the nuance through a few different translations.

When thinking about this idea of journeys, I find it very interesting- and a bit fitting, actually- that this was how I first learned the work. We are not always going to be at the source. It takes sharing information across generations to keep things alive, to keep things going, and I feel so thankful that I’ve had so many opportunities to do that with Thomas.

Now that we have done this performance a few times, and given that I have partnered and collaborated with Thomas for years, I know that we are equal partners in this. It’s a challenging piece, both physically and rhythmically, and I know that Thomas and I are there to support each other. What we have found is unique to our partnership, and the support offered by each other really elevates the work. Within the context of last year’s summit, I think it’s a moving example of the richness of intergenerational collaboration and speaks to what can be possible when we reframe how we think about aging. I know I am moved each time we perform this wonderful piece.”

Their performance was featured on the National Endowment for the Arts and National Center for Creative Aging report, released in February 2016. Check out the whole document here (PDF).

Dance Exchange’s performance and involvement with the National Center for Creative Aging stems from the Dance Exchange Toolbox, a toolbox of instructions for a variety of art-making techniques and concise descriptions of principles and practices.

About Alison Waldman

Alison Waldman is Dance Exchange's Marketing & Communications Manager and a D.C.-based “entrepren-artist” consultant, performer, photographer, and collaborator.