In "SET I," MN Dance Company artistic directors Michal Rynia and Nastja Bremec Rynia embody the complexity and uncertainty of life amidst COVID-19.
When Yvonne Montoya climbs all over the piano while her 12-year-old son Buddy tries to practice on it, we might guess that she is either having a parental meltdown or making a dance. Turns out, it's both. "It's been wild, and completely overwhelming," says Montoya from her Tucson, Arizona home, where she lives with Buddy and her husband.
Montoya, a 23rd-generation Nuevomexicana and founding director of Safos Dance Theatre, is one of many dance artists navigating motherhood during COVID-19. Choreographers, educators, artistic directors and dancers are not only trying to keep their careers afloat by creating digital work, but some have also been dealing with their now homebound children in the wobbly world of the Zoom school room, which is about to crank up again in most of the U.S. Doing that while managing a company, a studio or a freelance career can sometimes generate a type of artful chaos.
Yvonne Montoya: Finding Creativity in Constraints<p>Montoya is not one to let a good meltdown go to waste, which is exactly what she has done with <em>Stories from Home: COVID-19 Addendum. </em>She is releasing a new episode every Wednesday on Instagram Live and <a href="https://www.patreon.com/yvonnemontoya" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Patreon</a> for a nominal fee through September 16.</p><p>The original version of <em>Stories from Home</em> was slated for a September show on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, where Montoya was a 2019–20 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow. She has expanded the piece for today's digital world with longtime collaborator and filmmaker Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli.</p>
Montoya and Buddy
Dominic A. Bonuccelli, Courtesy Montoya
Ana Maria Alvarez: Hosting Conversations With “Mama Artivists”<p>When <a href="https://www.jacobspillow.org/" target="_blank">Jacob's Pillow</a> director Pamela Tatge asked <a href="https://www.contra-tiempo.org/" target="_blank">CONTRA-TIEMPO</a> artistic director Ana Maria Alvarez what she was up to during a digital catchup with some of the 2020-season artists, Alvarez replied, "I am mothering," with her beaming smile.</p><p>Before the pandemic, CONTRA-TIEMPO was poised to make its Doris Duke Theatre debut at the Pillow, along with a full summer of touring. A bright spot on the Los Angeles dance scene, CONTRA-TIEMPO recently celebrated its 15th year of presenting salsa, Afro-Cuban, hip hop, dance theater and contemporary dance with a social justice message.</p><p>These days, Alvarez is home with her 3-year-old and 9-year-old sons, while trying to stay active as a creative artist and connected to her company.</p>
Alvarez with her oldest son
Brandt Brogan, Courtesy Alvarez
Pre-COVID: Alvarez teaching a class while on tour with CONTRA-TIEMPO and holding her youngest son
Toni Valle: Juggling Classes, Films and Parents While Creating the World She Wants for Her Son<p><a href="https://uh.edu/kgmca/theatre-and-dance/about/faculty/valle/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Toni Valle</a> is a Houston dance legend, known for her advocacy, blending politics and aerial dance, and her production wizardry in her job as a professor of practice at the University of Houston. She had a hunch that the virus was worse than people thought, so she took her 16-year-old son Dante out of school before it officially closed. With five days to put her own classes online, she's the first to say those were some hectic days. A bit later, in April, she began retooling her dance company, <a href="http://www.6degreesdance.org/" target="_blank">6 Degrees</a>, for dance film projects. On top of that, she is the primary helper for her elderly parents, who both have preexisting conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.</p><p>"The first thing I did was get a stronger internet," says Valle. Once her son's Zoom classroom was up and running, she found that he needed some coaxing to get his schedule together. "Normally, he would go to school and bring home good grades, but this is different, really more like college in the way the time is structured," she says. "I definitely had to micromanage his day in the beginning."</p><p>With Dante soon heading into his junior year, she wants him to consider his options in the arts. "He sees my life as an artist, so it's not like he doesn't know how hard it is." Plus, Dante is a singer, the most problematic of the arts when it comes to virus spread.</p>
Toni Valle with her son Dante
Mark Valle, Courtesy Valle
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