A woman / A dreamer / A founder and supporter of dance / A conceiver of cultural strategies against age discrimination in dance and society, 61 years old
Madeline Ritter is a trained lawyer, cultural leader and dance programmer. From 1989 to 2004, she was artistic director of tanz performance köln, an international production and festival platform for contemporary dance and new media. Since then, she has been conceiving and directing national funding programmes for dance. In 2014, she launched Dance On, a multi-faceted initiative promoting the artistic excellence of older dancers that addresses the problem of ageism in the dance sector and in society.
Madeline Ritter is a certified coach and facilitator of processes of change, teaches cultural management at various European universities, and is a frequent jury member in several arts funding bodies.
Amongst all of the questions that resonate with you about aging and growing old, which one seems the most essential for you that you would like to share ?
Can we redefine what productivity means in our society? Man experiences meaning and is productive where he pursues plans that suggest a harmonious fulfillment of his various abilities and interests, and where he makes progress in these plans. Such a concept of meaning and concept of productivity makes it clear that biodegradation and the loss of social roles due to age need not per se lead to a loss of meaning or productivity. The opportunity of extended lifetimes lies in the discovery of new and changed forms of active and psychological productivity of old age. The chance of longer life also lies in lifelong learning. As individuals and in many areas of our society, we must rethink and restructure, then we can also see old age, our old age, as a possibility and an opportunity and not just as a problem.
Share an image you find inspiring about aging
"If you want to objectively mark the different stages of aging in your life, you have to rely on stable indicators of what you know to be true to stem the everyday flow of time passing. There is truth in numbers. The window of time that frames my life can be described in numbers. But what a pale description that is." Silvia Bovenschen, 2006
From your own experiences, tell us about a significant moment or event in your personal or professional life that shaped your perspective around aging.
As a producer, curator and public sponsor in the field of dance I was always looking out for great artistic visions. But what about the individual dancer and his/hers dreams and visions? I had to grow older myself to realize that professional dancers suffer from even more extreme forms of ageism. They are generally expected to retire from their performing careers around the age of 40, when youth and peak physical performance have supposedly faded. But there is no expiry date to grace and the beauty of experience. The dancer should be able to decide when to stop, not the society. As a consequence I founded in 2014 the Dance On Ensemble for dancers over 40 and launched the European initiative against age discrimination Dance On, Pass On, Dream On.
During our meetings last October, you imagined taking some first steps, the first actions. Can you remind us what they were? Can you tell us what happened when you put them into action?
If, in the coming months, you were given the time, energy and resources to set up a (new?) Project with our common questions at heart, what would it be?
According to your experiences and your expertise, where is the vitality, the curiosity, the strength to act in the face of the realities of aging?