by Carly Hennessy

The stage is open to everyone. This message was demonstrated with heart and passion by six Lutheran Services aged-care residents and four professional dancers recently at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).

Teaming up in the unique intergenerational dance theatre production If Only I Could … , the 10 performers received standing ovations for their courage and dance virtuosity.

Lutheran Services CEO Nick Ryan describes If Only I Could … as a celebration of our elders – of their big lives, loves and passions.

‘Guided by our Lutheran ethos, our creative programs act as a way to seek out and affirm people’s agency’, he says. ‘We see people as a gift, made in God’s image, making them worthy of dignity and honour.’

He says the act of creative expression had the potency to help and heal. ‘Creative expression generates community; it is an act of love to share and revel in each other’s articulation of who we are. (Creative engagement) allows agency, spark, imagination, creativity and connectedness – and that’s what’s fundamental to life. They found it is not “if only” – they did!’

Lutheran Services Director of Chaplaincy Dr Russell Briese was moved by the performance, describing it as a joyful and non-judgemental space to revel in people’s gifts. ‘It felt wonderful to watch and be part of’, he says. ‘It reminded me that Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life … in all its fullness”.’

At 75, Michael Bailey didn’t expect to ever have the opportunity that If Only I Could … presented – but he gave a star turn as he glided across the stage in the two-show season in late October. A resident at Tabeel Aged Care in Laidley near Toowoomba in southern Queensland and a fan of crooner and smooth-mover Neil Sedaka, Michael says performing was a ‘lovely’ experience. ‘I never, ever thought I’d be on stage in my life’, he says. ‘[Know that] always in your own heart you can do whatever you put your mind to.’

The show’s director, Angela Chaplin, and Lutheran Services’ creative programs advisor, Clare Apelt, first collaborated on the idea of illuminating the creativity of older people almost five years ago. ‘At the time I was running an organisation called Ausdance’, Angela says. ‘I decided it would be really interesting to work with people who don’t necessarily have access to exploring their creativity.’ She says one such group is elderly people. ‘They have such big lives, and they are so important to our community, but we rarely get to celebrate their creativity’, she says.

The project has now worked with more than 100 residents across Lutheran Services aged-care sites. There had been ‘test’ performances – in 2018 and 2021 – but nothing as significant as taking to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Older people taking centre stage was also a fitting theme to explore as the performances took place during October’s Senior’s Month in Queensland.

Carly Hennessy is Lutheran Services Communication Manager Content/PR/Production.

If Only I Could … is a partnership between Lutheran Services, QPAC and Director Angela Chaplin. Lutheran Services thanks the generous sponsorship of LLL Australia as our Premier Partner for If Only I Could …. LLL Australia ( is a philanthropic bank with a commitment to missional partnerships to assist Lutheran schools, aged-care organisations and congregations to grow and prosper for future generations, as well as missional funding for local projects.

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