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Whether or not we think about it, when we “shuffle off this mortal coil” we will leave a legacy, in the sense of legacy as something handed down from the past but not necessarily money. Depending upon the life that was led, the legacy can be enormously influential on those left behind or hardly make a ripple. But something is left, a trace, an example positive or negative, an imprint on the psychological ether of the collective, to be remembered and treasured or forgotten or denied.

I was born in England of conservative English parents who have long since passed on. I lived there until I was 15 and now I wonder, what is the legacy that has had the most impact on me? Parents, of course, and probably other relatives.

My mother’s sister, my Aunt Yevonde, or Vondie as we called her, was one such influence. She was a rebel and a contrarian. She joined the Suffragette movement in London in the 20s, marched and demonstrated and chained herself to the railings. She never got arrested, luckily. Suffragettes were not always treated well at the hands of the law. But beyond her political interests, there was more. Her creative urge moved her all her life and she followed her bliss (as Joseph Campbell would have it). Her refusal to buckle under to conservative English mores, her repudiation of traditional hypocrisy sometimes led her into disagreements, but that same independence of thought also led her to invent new techniques of the art of photography, for which she became justly famous.

I didn’t understand all this when I was a child, but I recognized something in the way my aunt went about living her life that I identified with even then. I haven’t thought about this in so many words before, but I have come to recognize that I have been motivated by much the same idealism as Vondie. (But not, I hasten to add, quite as militantly as she was.) Because of this, the people I’ve mostly been associated with have been free spirits too. But not merely free spirits either; none of your arty-farty, well-meaning but undisciplined dropouts. My model was my aunt, after all, who was a highly respected photographer, with a 60-year career behind her when she died. 

My aunt was a Bohemian. Bohemians were artists against the grain, liberated thinkers. There have always been such people. There have to be such people for art to survive. I have faith they are still somewhere around, though, unfortunately I no longer know any. I mean, young newcomers stretching the boundaries of what we are comfortable and familiar with. All most people seem to think about these days is the bottom line, the almighty dollar. Buying art is an investment for heaven’s sake. Art for art’s sake is a joke. How sad. 

Dance, probably the earliest art form of humankind, is the stepchild of the arts in America. It’s hard to make a living at it, so I’ve never made much money. But I’ve made art on the scale I can manage; in a small, local way for many people. Dance has been my medium and still defines me. Even at the serious age of 88, I continue to identify myself as a dancer. And the dances I have made in all these years have been non-traditional, experimental, off in some hitherto unnoticed corner. Because although I studied and searched through many different movement disciplines, such as ballet, modern (Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, Merc Cunningham, et al) East Indian Kathak, African, Spanish, yoga and tai chi to name a few major ones, none of them was the whole answer for me. I was always impelled to keep looking for my own movement, to keep searching. 

The search is the legacy, I think. For despite cameras and photography, dance is still the most ephemeral of the arts. Most of my dances have disappeared, which, in a way, is as it should be. They had their life, lived their part and left a faint track in a few hundred peoples’ brains. The doing of it is what matters. It is enough. 

Chloe Scott is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

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