Dancing in the Dark

The silent prayers of a nonagenarian: Hannah at 90 years old. 

For nine tumultuous decades Hannah would have looked curiously out at the world, and yet here her eyes are closed, her thoughts turned inwards, and maybe upwards, as she pauses in silent meditation.  

I fell in love with the gentleness, and deep calm, captured in her expression. Her story came to life in my imagination - from the sparse details the photographer was able to share and my brooding as I drew. 

What turbulence and changes she would have lived through, coming from Chemnitz, East Germany, where as the horrors of WWII finally came to a close she found her place, her space, working in a theatre - filling her mind and soul with new stories, new ideas from places far away.  

Through the noise and haste she sought out moments of serenity and deep peace - stories echo of her love of music, her voice rising in soaring choirs.  But the tales that seemed to resonate most with me, as I drew the twisting, turning lines of her face, were the stories of her passionate love of dance. Alone, for she had no children, she would dance in the dappled light and the darkness of her home. To silent applause she was still performing the splits at 90yrs. 

She would lie for hours in her bath tub, the water dripping in a soft serenade, the music of distant birdsong; I imagine her smile looking down at her own old, wrinkled skin, soaked and marinated like autumn prunes, before she would slowly rise, like Botticelli’s Venus. Stepping from the tub she would breath in the last of the lingering steam, waiting to hear the music swelling from within (was there a gramophone at the end of the hall playing Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata?).

Rather than rubbing her body on the hard towel she preferred to let the cool air dry her nakedness as she wove her way through the empty rooms of her house, dancing, twirling, whirling, floating: a private moment of exaltation. 



I am indebted to the amazing photographer Mandy “Hady" Schulte, for giving me permission to use her stunning photos, and for sharing the story of Hannah that inspired my imagination during long hours of reflection as I drew her wrinkled lines of beauty and imagined flesh on the facts of her story. 

"Hannah" - In the series “Wisdom of the aged – Lines in time.” 

Based on an image by photographer, Mandy “Hady" Schulte, with full copyright permission. 

Pencil on handmade Bhutanese paper, large scale 80cm x 50cm. 

Check out more from this fabulous photographer Hady Pictures.