At the dance studio, we’ve been dealing with months of controlled chaos, as I like to call it.
My favorite thing about being a dance teacher is the ability to form connections with students. Thankfully, this aspect of my work has not been fully taken away. This summer, we’ve been hard at work making adjustments to our classes, and we can see that social distancing and forming bonds with fellow dancers don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I think that’s what happens when everyone really buys in and approaches classes with excitement rather than apprehension.
As the dance teachers in charge, we have to consider questions of a wide range, such as, is floor-work necessary? How can we change our curriculum to take floor-work out of the picture? How can we change the daily plan to accommodate social distancing when certain classes are completely dedicated to partner-work or collaboration? As a rule of thumb for all programming, students should stick to the six-feet-apart dots on the floor, and try to maintain that space when traveling across the floor.
The main issue I’ve been grappling with is that we can’t have much consistency in how we do things. I plan for one week and it changes the next. I might plan to teach a class, but the day before, high case numbers in the area might force the entire studio to move online. But in the dance world, we are pretty used to thinking on our feet.
The difference is, in the past, when a competition was cancelled, we could find another one in a matter of days, whereas this spring, competitions across the nation have been cancelled. We had to deal with the losses of countless dances that had already been rehearsed exhaustively. It was a sobering experience for the dancers, who had to cling onto the memories of rehearsing with their friends in the fall and winter, and treat it as a whole process instead of keeping their eyes on the prize.
Personally, my favorite annual performance is our Spring Recital, held in May. It’s usually a huge deal, with five nights of shows and hundreds of pieces performed in an exciting venue. This year, however, we had to improvise to create a Zoom Recital. Students had their costumes shipped to them, and they performed individually in their living rooms. Definitely not the same!
A couple weeks after the first, we held our annual Senior Solo Recital. The audience was limited to family members and the rest of the studio community could watch our Instagram live streams. While I’m glad we were able to give the graduating seniors one last time to shine, it was a bummer to give up some things that make senior solos so special. My personal favorite is the sight of younger dancers crowding the backstage wings to watch their role models perform.
In terms of summer programming, we continue to hold the same events and classes that we do each year, like Jazz Intensive, Stay Strong weekly technique, competition choreography, etc. In terms of choreography, students are learning solos and duets and group pieces without the faintest idea of whether they’ll be able to perform at competition this year. It takes strength to persevere with multiple pieces and give your all into something you don’t even know will happen, and I’m so very proud of them.
Honestly, I really miss the studio I used to know. There was always some excitement to find, some place in the lobby to recline. But now, it’s almost dead silent apart from the noise coming from the individual classrooms. No parents can stay in the lobby unless their child is less than 5 years old. No congregating in the lunch break areas. There is a constant air of cleanliness, which definitely could be for the better. If it weren’t for the dynamic tapping of tap shoes or blasting of music keeping this place alive, I don’t know what I would do.
Written by: Lily Zeng