Insight into Dust on the Shortbread

Written by Quindell Orton

Dust on the Shortbread

Both Serena and I have experienced dementia in our families. I guess this gave us a strong starting point. I grew up with a mother that has been scared of it for the last 30 years (so as long as I can remember) and an Oma and Opa who disappeared to it in the end. We started from here, we talked and then we read. We read and watched what we could on dementia, Alzheimer’s, how memory is formed and lost, and aging. We did workshops with Dance for Parkinson’s, Dance for Dementia and Dance for Older People, gave workshops for seniors in Rockingham. Then, we asked Perth actor George Shevstov and dancer/choreographer Elizabeth Cameron Dalman to join the process. It may seem like an easy choice to use two older performers but it was clear we 30-somethings couldn’t capture and recreate this fragility, the accumulation of experience in the body that give this loading. There are things that I just assume now about the work – they seem so natural. Of course these are the performers and of course the show is in a house – their house, in a way. Serena and I have a deep interest in site alternative performance; our shared practice is rooted in the want and interest to take dance out of the theatre, to utilise the established ‘stages’ of the world. This work needs this intimacy, this casualness. There is something often romanticised about dementia, in movies especially – someone just drifting away, getting a bit cloudy, or it gets funny or dramatic. But in this work we want to touch the other zones, the fade between and the fade out.

It is, however, not just a piece on dementia. This is our starting point: so many other topics came into it as we began working including fragility versus vitality in an ageing body, care-giving, the solo and joint negotiations of a struggle, long-term relationships, support systems, forgotten people, how older people are segregated in our society, how memory is used to construct our identity, and how without this we can not progress and move forward resulting in a stagnation of self. Mike Gazzaninga wrote ‘Everything in life is memory, save for the thin edge of the present’. I really like this thought, it points out that dementia is not just forgetting where your room is, it is unsaving, unhappening you, your life and all your references.  

Maybe I will end up on the same road as my Oma and Opa. There is an inevitability that I feel. The more I live, learn, experience, the more the past is replaced. When you remember one thing it replaces another piece of information. I try to fight against this by writing about beautiful, intense, funny, strange, banal moments but it will never be enough. Dementia could be a manifesto for living in the moment. Without a past, without a future. But in this situation the ‘you’  needed to simply be there to live in the moment also doesn’t exist. Where do we go from there? 

Where do we go from there?