Yesterday—instead of sending (yet another) goofy coronavirus meme—my mom forwarded an email from Smuin Contemporary Ballet that linked to a recent performance video. She wrote:
"I think this is wonderful. I enjoyed watching it and it makes me want to see them live. When this is all over I think Dad and I should go."
It's probably been a decade since my folks last saw the company, but because of outreach that Smuin might never have done otherwise, now they want tickets. (I told my mom to see if she can buy a gift card now—a smart offering I've seen some companies using to stay afloat.)
Of course, my parents are only one pair of dance-goers. But I've been on multiple calls over the past few days with various leaders in the dance industry, listening to what they're going through and getting some insight into how they're coping. And although reactions to this pandemic run the gamut, what I keep thinking about are the reasons for hope:
- There's been an inspiring amount of solidarity. All kinds of grassroots resources have popped up seemingly overnight. Dance/USA told me they've received more letters for their COVID-19 relief campaign than any campaign before. I've even heard about major schools that would normally be competitors sharing their strategies.
- We're taking positive steps forward. As everyone adjusts to isolation, we're learning new skills that could serve us in the long-term: Schools have quickly figured out how to hold Zoom classes, companies are finding crafty new ways to engage audiences and choreographers are experimenting with long-distance rehearsals.
- Dancers have brought their typical creativity to this crisis. The same people who use dental floss to sew their pointe shoes and Saran Wrap to heat their muscles are now using Instagram to offer each other class, and Facebook to share footage of work they never got to perform. They're hosting virtual dance parties and live Q&A sessions, and giving their colleagues dance challenges. (Even Yvonne Rainer got in on that action!)
- The passion is as strong as ever. Judging by the thousands that are following so many livestreams, dancers are incredibly eager to take class, and will be flooding back to studios as soon as the doors can open again.
Of course, it's okay to acknowledge feeling anxious and overwhelmed these days. It's not just the loss of work or the uncertainty over how long this will last that's unsettling—it's the loss of our go-to coping mechanism: getting into a studio to move together. To feel the room breathing and plié-ing together. To feel the camaraderie of praying in a circle backstage. To feel the support of a partner moving you through the air.
We get it, and Dance Magazine is doing whatever we can to help.
Dance Magazine has been here for our community for almost a century, through dance booms and dark decades. In the 1940s, we reported on dancers helping the war effort, we told readers how to navigate things like dance shoe rations and we put out calls for our country not to abandon the arts. Today, we're committed to getting you the info you need to make it through this pandemic, and sharing the stories that will keep you inspired in the meantime.
Our team, now all working from home, is currently putting the finishing touches on our June issue. Online, we've refocused our efforts on the stories that will help you right now. In addition to a massive list of resources, we've gathered financial advice, apps for social distancing, shelf-stable foods that can help keep you healthy, tips for teaching living-room ballet class and a rundown of how you can support out-of-work artists if you're able to.
Lots more is already in the works. You can keep tabs on the latest stories here. If there's something else you want to see, shoot me a note at email@example.com.
Personally, I'm trying to stay hopeful, and am taking advantage of the unprecedented access to dance artists around the globe. I've taken Ryan Heffington's delightful class on Instagram Live, joined the virtual Dance Church, and watched countless recordings of dance works that were never before available. (My favorite so far: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in Still/Here at BAM in 1994.)
I hope everyone is staying as healthy as possible, and finding their own moments of hope. Remember: Dance artists are some of the most resilient people out there. We know how to face the most daunting challenges with grace, and this one will be no different.