The Effects of Social Distancing on Our Dance Practices

In an effort to understand how dance is being intimately affected by the coronavirus epidemic and its ripple effects, I sent out a questionnaire to dance friends and colleagues. Below are the first round of responses I received. You can read the second round of responses here.

I hope dancers the world over are finding the resources they need to get through this, as well as the strength to draw from it. -Emmaly

~~

Kathryn Roszak in Sausalito, CA

How has the coronavirus personally affected your dance practice?

My Women Ballet Choreographers Residency is on hold. This is our fifth-year anniversary and we have national participants such as Victoria Morgan (artistic director of Cincinnati Ballet) and Wendy Whelan (associate artistic director of New York City Ballet) planning to participate. Funders are poised, we have dancers from San Francisco Ballet and Lines Ballet dancing, and we have the possibility of a major theater in San Francisco to present our work. All of this was swept away and is jeopardized.

How are you creatively coping?

I am communicating with the dancers who now are in different states. I am making dances outdoors to feel some freedom from quarantine and am incorporating this experience into my work. I am documenting what is happening to dancers, women, and single people, as I am one.

What are you most worried about financially?

I felt I was reaching the fruition of my life’s work and it is rare to have such an alignment. It’s already challenging for women to be visible and funded and I think it will be harder for women to recover, so special support is needed.

What’s giving you strength or keeping you grounded these days?

I live in the small town of Sausalito, CA, and it’s like being quarantined in paradise. It’s a town known for being social and there are many singles here and we all are suffering from confinement. I am dancing outdoors to counteract the lack of studios.

Kathryn is the director of Dance Lumiere. You can watch her work here

~~

Rachelle Woods in Santa Fe, NM

How has the coronavirus personally affected your dance practice?

Our weekly contact improv jams are canceled.

How are you creatively coping?

Not feeling creative. I’m also a poet. Writing a little bit. I’m directing less and following my body more in my qi gong practice.

What are you most worried about financially?

Friends who live paycheck to paycheck, or whose work has been canceled.

What’s giving you strength or keeping you grounded these days?

I have the good fortune to share a home with a spouse. Hugging is hugely helpful. Dancing together too. Living alone sounds hard to me right now. I have a big yard. I’m tidying up the plants I didn’t get around to in the fall. A local nursery is still open, and we bought some seedlings a few days ago.

Eating garlic greens and fall planted parsley. Pruning the pear tree. Spreading some of our beautiful compost. Gardening is good.

I wanted to walk in big trees, my feet on ground. We’d heard lots of people were out on trails, which are often narrow, no easy way to be six feet, or more, apart. So, we had a picnic in a cemetery – beautiful trees and grass. Only a few other people, far away.

~~

Angela Mazziotta in Portland, OR

How has the coronavirus personally affected your dance practice?

In many ways, my dance practice has grown deeper and more meaningful since the spread of coronavirus. I am now without a job and the days often feel aimless while I contemplate and struggle with the many known and unknown impacts of this challenging time. Dance and being in and with my body has become my automatic self-soothe technique. In mid-April, I was part of a small group of choreographers who were showing work to be paired with wine for a fun evening at Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, Oregon. This would have been my first performance appearance since moving to Portland in August from San Francisco. We are hoping to reschedule the event for a later, safer date!

How are you creatively coping?

I’ve started The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and have been enjoying a daily writing practice along with completing the given assignments. Surprising myself, I’ve participated in a number of live-streamed classes via ZOOM and Instagram Live Stories. Daily yoga was an existing part of my physical and mental fitness, but it seems to carry me further still during these times.

What are you most worried about financially?

I’ve lost my job at a restaurant and am hoping it will survive this and be a place I can return to. We were all laid off in the hopes that we could begin collecting unemployment as soon as possible. So far, I haven’t heard back about the status of my application and I know there has been a surge in applications, so it might be a while. Because we took home cash tips (a pooled house so all tips were claimed for taxes), I have been hesitant to deposit my cash into a bank account in case it will be better to have cash at some point. At the same time, handling cash for necessary purchases feels a little strange…dirty almost, like I’m wanting to get consent from the person working the register that they are willing to handle cash! Other worries: rent, utility bills, student loans, how will this set me back in my financial goals. I worry a LOT about others in more dire financial situations… wanting to help but worrying about the sustainability of that and meeting my own basic needs.

What’s giving you strength or keeping you grounded these days?

Coming out of my first winter (having grown up in Florida and then spending more than nine years in San Francisco), spring is particularly dazzling; I’ve enjoyed many walks and bike rides, noticing and learning about the trees and plants around me. I’m grateful to have a wonderful companion in my home through this. Together, we are diving into cooking adventures – making sourdough, tempeh, cooking multiple meals a day! We have a sweet little yard; pulling weeds and preparing the outdoor spaces for warmer weather has been meditative and fulfilling. Reading a bunch more than I used to have time for and catching up on movies, music and podcasts.

Any other thoughts, resources or worries you’d like to share?

https://www.rosasdanstrosas.be/home/

https://www.detourdance.com/jukebox

~~

Lauren Valerie Coons in Albuquerque, NM

How has the coronavirus personally affected your dance practice?

I had just begun teaching a new contemporary dance class. The first class was on March 7th and I haven’t been able to hold another class since. It is frustrating because it is challenging as it is to build interest in a new class and the students in the first class seemed like they may be the beginning of a really great core group. I did have one cancelled performance. I think the most frustrating part of all of it (that I try not to think about) is that it has been an extremely challenging time in my personal life and to put in the work and the hours to prepare the dance class and the performances, to attend rehearsals and build choreography, was really a stretch to pull off, so to have it basically dissolve and not result in anything (yet) is very disappointing. Not that any time spent dancing is wasted time, but the stress of trying to pull things together was not good for me.

How are you creatively coping?

My philosophy and practice of composition is centered around the idea that creativity is born from limitations and disruptions in our regular patterns, so this situation has been very creatively fruitful for me. From designing new recipes that make use of the miscellaneous food items in my pantry to creating collaborative movement and sound scores with others that highlight the strange nature of our collective confinement, I have more projects and ideas for projects than I have had in the past few months, all of which “lean in” to the current reality. In terms of my movement practice, I have always been a kitchen dancer. I’ve enjoyed finding ways to get a worthwhile workout and get creative by moving in different spaces. I am incredibly lucky to live in a place that has had beautiful warm weather, where there is a lot of distance between people and dwellings, and where I am a two-minute walk from open space and hiking and walking trails. I have been moving outdoors a great deal either in the backyard with the chickens or in little private spaces in the wilderness. I do, however, greatly miss the energy of moving in a group or a class and the benefits of in-person instruction from someone other than myself.

What are you most worried about financially?

The nature of my current work is such that my own personal finances have not been immediately impacted. I’m certain, however, there will be a ripple effect that will eventually reach me as individual artists no longer have the funds to commission new work from me and granting organizations use funds to support performing artists currently. As of right now, my concern is mainly for those who are feeling an immediate impact.

What’s giving you strength or keeping you grounded these days?

Nature is always a great source of strength and peace. And the fact that things have slowed down (at least for me) and that the usual expectations of day-to-day life have taken a backseat. I feel like I actually have time to focus on things, to spend two or three hours outside moving and playing instead of squeezing in 30 minutes between gigs, and to get to take the time to evaluate the work I have been doing and what I would like to change going forward.

Any other thoughts, resources or worries you’d like to share?

I just think it is important for us as artists to remember how important the work we create is in telling the story of humans on earth and that what we do now, what we create now, and how we create it is significant. We have the unique gift of seeing challenge as opportunity for creative growth and positive change, and that is a gift that we can share with the whole world right now.

~~

Delphine Hsini Mei in Taipei, Taiwan

How has the coronavirus personally affected your dance practice?

All classes are canceled, and performances are either rescheduled or in the process of being re-discussed, collaborators gone and/or new collaborators appear. In general, everything seems to be postponed or on hold.

How are you creatively coping?

I still do my own personal stretches and daily physical practices with myself to keep things going. I usually take lots of time to research so this has been no change for me. Also, I see this time as a resting, reflecting time. I’m re-grouping my thoughts concerning creating and seeing performances, especially in what roles I want to put myself and what effects I want to have. Sort of taking out what was probably not needed and enhancing or adding those which our society really needs. I think the shift from personal ego to collective wellbeing is key and what’s needed in dance or other practices.

What are you most worried about financially?

In general, I live very minimally, even before the outbreak. And few years ago, I made the decision to move back home to live with my family because I had spent many years paying huge amounts of money in rent. I questioned whether this really brought me the freedom I wanted or just looked like I was free, but I spent lots of time worrying or trying to pay the rent. So, I also began another practice/business in another field, also relating to the body. As I didn’t want to have pressure to commercialize my dance and art, I figured the best way for me was to have an extra more stable income which also fulfilled my other interests and stimulated my creativity. If one didn’t work out so well, there was always another one. I am a believer of plan A plus plan B and Z, mainly because I think in life the only constant is change, so stability is always changing too.

What’s giving you strength or keeping you grounded these days?

My mind-body-spirit practice.

Any other thoughts, resources or worries you’d like to share?

A photo of me doing a cleansing healing wish ritual for a friend to wish us all well.

~~

Tonya Rivera in Albuquerque, NM

How has the coronavirus personally affected your dance practice?

This has affected my life by not knowing when I will be able to rehearse again. Also, as I write this, VSA (Very Special Arts) is closed until April 6th and it might be closed longer if needed. Because of this, I don’t know if my fellow dancers and I will be performing at the end of May as scheduled.

How are you creatively coping?

I have been thinking about what the opening of my art show fundraiser event is going to look like this summer.

What are you most worried about financially?

The thing that I am most worried about is if this virus doesn’t go away by June when our fundraiser is scheduled. Right now, I don’t know if we can get any kind of funding for my organization, Every Ability Plays Project, during this time. That is going to put us way behind on the projects that we are supposed to be working on.

What’s giving you strength or keeping you grounded these days?

Praying the Rosary every day. And, after this awful storm, I know I will be getting together with my friends.

~~

2 Responses to “The Effects of Social Distancing on Our Dance Practices”

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS