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Column: Life/Art Ensemble takes dance into the world

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Posted Thursday, June 8, 2023 2:11 pm

Clarke Reader

When many people think of starting a dance organization, they probably conjure up images of children or teenagers awkwardly figuring out how to get their feet to do what their minds want them to. But Life/Art Dance Ensemble got its start in 2009 with a different audience in mind.  

“I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and my very first job out of college was with Volunteers of America, Colorado Branch. I co-ran the Healthy Aging program there and we would bring nutrition, exercise, and fall prevention classes to low-income residences for older adults,” explained Jessica Riggs, artistic director and founder of Life/Art. “I also learned that entertainment budgets at these residences weren’t high and that there was a lack of quality entertainment available, particularly for those who had impaired mobility or couldn’t afford tickets to a show.”  

And from that experience came the idea of bringing dance directly to older adults.  

In the 14 years since its founding, the organization has expanded to offer contemporary dance performances all over the metro area. 

“We work with live music and different creative concepts to take dance out of the theater and move it into the world,” Riggs said. “We’re trying to expose people to what dance can be and collaborate with as many different groups as we can.”  

The metro dance scene can often be very siloed, Riggs said, so collaboration has become a crucial feature of nearly every project the organization engages with. Some examples include the annual Life In Motion: A Colorado Dance Film Festival, which showcases Colorado dance film artists, and the Convergence event, which is a cost-sharing show featuring all kinds of local dance organizations, like Rocky Mountain Rhythm and Front Range Contemporary Ballet Company

While summer is a bit of a quiet time for Life/Art when it comes to public performances, there’s always something to work on. The organization is currently preparing for this year’s Convergence performance and a dance haunted house, also slated for the fall. 

But, in the meantime, the work with older adults never stops. That is due, at least in part, to the 2021 expansion of their program to feature inclusive dance classes taught in the DanceAbility method. According to Riggs, this allows the residences to be able to dance themselves, regardless of any physical limitation they might have. 

“There are many physical, mental, and emotional benefits to dance,” she said. “Our primary goal in serving older adults is to improve their quality of life, social and mental health, mood, and overall sense of well-being.”  

Find more information about Life/Art and its work at www.lifeartdance.org/

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