Grey Panthers 1988
While creating the linked community dance performance projects Dance Feast and Dance on Darwin, a group of senior women over 50 years of age were brought together to create a work – The Wall of Flowers, devised by Beth Shelton with the dancers. It was apparent that this age group was not being represented in other areas of the community dance program and so after the performance the women continued to work together, in the form of a weekly dance class, under the guidance of Sarah Calver. This was the beginning of the Older Adults Dance Mob Group, later to become the Grey Panthers.
Maggi Phillips, Beth Shelton, Sarah Calver and Tim Newth
Lendell Fyson, Willis Gerrig, Glad Morris, Gail Morris, Wendy James, Jocelyn Perkins, Marie Porter, Joy Soullier, Elsie Thompson, Pat Townsend and Margaret Wight
Dance Development Office: Sarah Calver
[Under Brown’s Mart Community Arts – Executive Officer Ken Conway]
"Casting my mind back…….. to what unbeknownst to us at the time became the beginning of the wonderful Grey Panthers…….
Darwin hot of course. 1989 perhaps. Endless silent lightning at nights over the sea. A bougainvillea and frangipani overflow. The Territory stunning the senses of this newcomer.
A bunch of us dance and community people – Maggi Phillips, Sarah Calver, Tim Newth, myself, others – working to bring together a community dance event.
Each day, leaving the airconditioning at our home site at Darwin Entertainment Centre to go out and discover how much strong and committed dancing was happening in Darwin, based in an extraordinary richness of cultures and styles. Meeting the people who helped make this happen. We hoped our performance event would celebrate all this, and following the trail of Feats dance company, to make some contemporary dance as part of the mix. We started to choreograph dances and imagine performances, with kids, young people, adults…..
We had no older people dancing with us. This could not be right. We wanted dancers across the life span. We wanted the particular perspective on life and dance that a long experience gives. Where to find older people? Asking around, we were directed to an older people’s social club. The RSL? Tim and I rolled in. A hubbub of talking around tables. It seemed impossible, for a while, to get peoples’ attention to ask them if just perhaps there might be some who would like to come and work with us. Do dance, make dance, perform. It seemed kind of unlikely, to be honest.
I jumped on a table. That worked. People looked up. I bet I talked fast and moved my hands around a lot. I bet Tim smiled. Perhaps the smiling did the trick. Something must have.
Because on the appointed day for the first rehearsal of the older peoples’ dance group, we waited nervously. Not letting ourselves expect too much. But right on time, and in fine fettle, there came more than a dozen women, nervous too, but ready to go. And they made a fine time of our rehearsals, dancing, making dance, remembering dancing, and often enough singing too. It was an uncanny thing sometimes, how a thread of thought would seem to catch in the room and they would all start to sing, a song from the old days. They sang Apple Blossom Time in the performance as they danced. And there was always a lot of laughing. That is what I remember. With them, dancing, singing and laughing went really well together.
Then many years later, back in Darwin, watching a big parade in the city centre. Marching band, floats, the full regalia and then – hey its the Grey Panthers – hanging on to bikie fellas on Harleys. Waving to the crowd. Laughing.
I take my hat off to you, Panthers." Beth Shelton
“I am past the days of having stars in my eyes, but it has put a glimmer in them.” Glad Morris
“This makes me feel that although we are old we are not past it.” Pat Townsend