The show must go on

May 6, 2021


Graphic courtesy of Claire Chen

To practice safely, dancers during the pandemic have been meeting virtually over Zoom.

With all the COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines set in place, heading to a dance studio—a setting where everyone does not usually stay six feet apart—may not be the best idea. Because of this, dancers and dance instructors have come up with creative ways to continue dancing during the pandemic.

Normally, dancers take lessons and practice at rather heavily enclosed studios or spaces. Now, it seems like one of the most riskiest activities ever. They dance in indoor spaces—some with poor ventilation—, share dressing rooms and come in frequent contact with one another. Therefore, dancing with others may not be the safest option right now. In fact, according to a report by the CDC, a single dance fitness workshop in South Korea led to a whopping 112 coronavirus cases.

So, dancers have a dilemma on their hands. They either have to risk their lives at the studio, or find some other way to rehearse. Especially for professionals who make a living off of dance, putting a halt on their career may be severely damaging.

Luckily, there are many alternatives to in-person classes and performances. A common solution is teaching or performing online through Zoom, Google Meet or any other video communication service. This way, everyone can practice safely at home, without needing to come in contact with one other.

Because of the new format of online classes, students have had to transform a part of their house into a mini dance studio, whether it be their living room, basement or bedroom. However, depending on the size of one’s space, it may be more difficult to do bigger movements that require a lot of traveling. 

Other challenges of dancing at home are dealing with family distractions, inappropriate flooring and having no barre or mirror. But, dancers find ways to overcome these obstacles. For example, similar to virtual learning, students can find remote areas in their house to rehearse. To fix the issue of dancing on carpet or slippery surfaces, which is very dangerous, dancers can purchase marley or wood flooring online. Likewise, they can find ballet barres, mirrors and other equipment on sites such as Amazon, Discount Dance, Dancewear Solutions and more.

Besides having online lessons, some companies and dancers have practiced and performed outside as well. For instance, the Washington Ballet held their gala outside and streamed the performance live online. The dancers wore masks, maintained a safe distance apart and followed the guidelines mandated by the CDC.

Unfortunately, Ms. Julie Kent, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, announced that she had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with two others. So, dancing outside is an option, but it still poses a risk, even when safety precautions are followed.

Another form of performing outside is through live dance, with a physical audience on the sides. An example of this is the Kaatsbaan Summer Festival, which was held in a large field in Tivoli, New York. The programs were kept short, and the performances were limited to either solos or duets, with duets being with dancers who had been living and quarantining together. Also, bathrooms were prohibited, and payment was completely digital.

As for the audience, they had the choice of watching the performance from their cars, benches and blankets, which were spaced at least 10 feet apart. Furthermore, those who came to watch the festival were required to arrive at different times, in order to minimize any possible contact.

Dancing outside is definitely an alternative to the studio, as seen in the performances of the Washington Ballet and the Kaatsbaan Summer Festival. However, there will always be a risk and issue of safety, no matter how many precautions are taken. In the end, online dance lessons seem to be the safest option for now. 

Dancers face many challenges backstage, and the coronavirus has become one of them. But, just like how makeup and a wardrobe malfunction can be fixed, dancers can manage their way around COVID-19 as well. They continue to perform, create art and follow their passion during these times—because no matter what, the show must go on.

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