Here is the next installment of Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape with Figures:
“On the beach someone came out with the remark often made by the middle-aged: ‘I wouldn’t be young again for anything!’
I’ve always distrusted that statement. There is a plethora of books and articles on how to relinquish youth gracefully and the satisfactions of growing older. Now that it’s starting to happen to me, I try to count my blessings, although I’m not wholly convinced the middle years are much fun.
Having a tendency to prefer extremes to compromise, old age has always seemed to me less to be dreaded than middle age. I still think that if I should happen to live to be ‘full of years’ and could keep my health and faculties, it could be very enjoyable. The old are permitted a certain amount of eccentricity. It would be fun to say and do things which, if I did them now, would offend or outrage people, but which would be regarded as amusing foibles in an old lady.
I might have had the opportunity to achieve a ripe old age if I’d gone on dancing. I recall reading an article some years ago which listed the extraordinary number of dancers, male and female, who have lived into their late eighties and nineties. Not only that but they continued to dance. Ruth St. Denis was still involved in all kinds of dance activities right up to her death somewhere between the ages of eighty-eight and ninety-three – nobody seems to agree on the exact age. Ted Shawn was still going strong up to the time he died at eighty. And I think of Ruth Page and Martha Graham, still involved in the dance world until their deaths, Ruth at 93 and Martha at 96. Not to mention some of the great ballerinas of the Old Russian Imperial Ballet who later became teachers in Paris.
Dedicated dancers never retire unless forced by circumstances beyond their control. They go on dancing and choreographing even when they are too old to dance in public.
It would be interesting to know what the correlation is between dancing and longevity. On the surface it would appear to be a matter of keeping physically fit. But if that’s all it is, why don’t athletes live to an equally ripe old age? I’m convinced there must be some relationship between rhythmic movement and a long life, even though it’s as mysterious as the instinct that guides a migrating bird back to its nesting area every spring.
Further observations on rhythm. I used to be puzzles by the occasional person who claimed to have no sense of rhythm: ‘I can’t even beat time.’ I felt a mixture of incredulity and pity, as if he or she had been born with some physical handicap.
I’ve come to believe that such a person does not really lack rhythm; for some unknown reason it’s been inhibited and is lying dormant. Or it may be felt and expressed spatially instead of temporally. I’ve learned that very often people who can’t ‘keep time’ have a highly developed appreciation for the visual arts of painting and sculpture and architecture, in other words a good eye for balance and spacing.”