Learning about Alzheimer’s through movement with The Quiet Room’

2 minute read
'The Quiet Room' moves around in an unexpected ways in this year's Fringe Festival. (Photo provided by Hailey Hubbs)
'The Quiet Room' moves around in an unexpected ways in this year's Fringe Festival. (Photo provided by Hailey Hubbs)

Understanding our bodies and how we move and navigate the world, alongside the people with us, is a journey itself. To know how what’s actually happening inside of us and articulate it in a way that’s outwardly understood is a challenge. Hailey Hubbs is instrumenting the process with The Quiet Room, a Fringe Festival entry that seeks to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Quiet Room examines the internal and external notions of Alzheimer's victims through movement. The movers track their improvised movements and patterns with wavering structures that they themselves can’t fully trust to give them an arc. Nonetheless, they keep moving and fighting to keep their memory from the impending, uncertain outcome.

It’s oh so quiet

Hubbs’s piece is inspired by her relationship with her grandmother, Claire Conway, and her battle with Alzheimer’s. “We’re doing a lot of improv work about if our memory failed us,” Hubbs said in an interview. The title comes from an actual ‘quiet room’ in her grandmother’s nursing home, where people, victims and their loved ones alike, would go for exactly that: quiet. To be with their thoughts.

The nursing home was a memory loss unit geared towards Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

When asked about what many people may not know or consider about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, Hubbs said it’s the emotional impact. “Not only the reactions of the people effected, but the reaction of the families and people involved with them every day."

Hubbs added that The Quiet Room is a conversation on “being good partners with one another.” That’s not the easiest conversation to have.

Improv and structure

When it comes to movement, there are structures. Movement is usually choreographed with narrative and music. And you could make the argument that even improvisation has some structure. But The Quiet Room can go anywhere, and without the movers knowing.

“We made puzzle pieces,” Hubbs said, “where we have an action that will drive the emotion we want to express.” She described that, in the show, a musician playing Fly Me to the Moon on guitar may change the lyrics or the melody, and the movers have to change the movements because of it. The movers may not be aware of this change coming, and have to react.

And the music is different in every show.

“I actually grew up in a traditional dance studio where you learn combinations,” Hubbs noted. “The type of movement we tried to create in this process—it’s relevant to people who may not even have any dance experience.”

The movement in The Quiet Room is relevant to anyone with any experience with a loved one fighting against any disease, especially Alzheimer’s.

What, When, Where:

The Quiet Room, choreographed by Hailey Hubbs, shows Saturday, September 21 at 6pm and 8pm, and Sunday, September 22 at 2pm at the Pig Iron School, Studio B, 1417 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia. Tickets are $10 online. The Pig Iron School is wheelchair accessible.

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