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Session 4 - Death and Avoidance

Writer-in-residence, Kembali: Liyana Nasyita

Engagement date: 23 June 2022


As sessions pass by, we move an inch closer to exploring questions on departure and death with the elders. This session was an attempt to do so.

As usual, we began doing some warm-up exercises with the elders to ease them slowly into dancing eventually. By now, the elders are quite familiar with this routine. Although some of them struggle with the exercises, they try their best to complete the warm-up with their peers.

However, in this session, we did something new with the elders. To explore their creativity in moving their bodies and build their confidence, Syimah introduced a mirroring exercise. In this activity, elders will pair up and while facing each other in their seats, they have to take turns following each other’s movements.

Upon hearing this, the elders gasped, unsure of what to expect next. However, Syimah’s assurance that they could move their body as they wish using any part of their body, at any speed, and following their emotions.

I had the chance to do this exercise with an elder, who was very reserved to move. So, took the initiative to lead the exercise first. She followed my movements intently, and slowly, she began to feel more comfortable moving. When it was her turn to lead the exercise, she took on the role seamlessly, and began moving her palms, and later her shoulders.

Gradually, her movements became faster. As I was trying to keep up with her movements, she said, “Wah, best jugak eh buat ni!” (Woah, this exercise is quite fun!) I replied, “Tu lah Cik, best sangat. Ok cik, gerak lagi Cik!” (Yes, it is fun! Come on Cik, move some more!)

I took a look around the room and noticed the elders’ contentment and relieved faces. “It is not as scary as I thought,” an elder said when asked how the mirroring exercise made her feel.

What followed next was the introduction to the process of the choreography of the dance segment which the elders may eventually be a part of. Led by Haizad, the elders were invited to sit in a circle on their chairs, surrounding a set-up in the middle.

This set-up invited many questions from the elders.

“Why is there a (rectangular) table in the middle?”

“Why are there plastic flowerpots on the table? Are we going to plant trees?”

Haizad only responded, “I will explain in a while.”

Since it is the first time exposing the elders to choreography, Haizad only introduced some light actions, such as walking towards the flowerpots on the floor and picking it up, walking around the table and circling around the elders’ respective partners.

While I understood the symbolism of the props (the table represented the death bed of a departed loved one, the flowerpots resemble their love and perhaps regret), Haizad eventually was reluctant to verbalise it. In our conversation after the season, he explained that it was challenging for him to explain such heavy symbolism to the elders.


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