Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Literally and Figuratively
We chose a career in dance. Over and above anything else in this world, we dancers want to move. Covid 19 related closures have put a dead stop on our movement industry, since the pandemic hit us 18 months ago. Theatres and dance companies shut down, dance festivals were cancelled, long rehearsed performances were put off indefinitely, and dance classes moved online.
I belong to a community that occupies a small niche in this industry- the social dance community! In the times of social distancing, how does a dancer from the social dance community survive? How have my colleagues and I coped with this pandemic? Here’s my personal account of the past 18 months and what it has meant to me…
Creating for the gram:
I missed the arc lights, the audiences, the costumes and makeup.
I craved the months of rehearsals preceding a show, the banter and bickering between team members, the nervous energy backstage, the adrenalin rush of performing live and the satisfaction of having performed a good show. Being on stage was the raison d’etre for so many of us, but with that not being an option anymore, many of us turned to social media as a means to express through our art forms.
Adapting to a totally different format, we danced in our living rooms, prepared new pieces in sprints of a couple of hours, and filmed ourselves on our phone cameras. We learned to open ourselves up and be vulnerable to our audiences in our homes, and boy, has that been rewarding!
My colleagues and I have enjoyed the challenge of being creative within these constraints. We have loved the instant and direct feedback that social media offers, and have connected with so many wonderful people during this time. And while we look forward to our next outing on stage, our short and sweet social media pieces are here to stay!
The constraints of salsa and bachata being partnered social dances loomed large at the beginning of this pandemic. Being sequestered away without one’s partner was a scary prospect for me. The whole reason many of us choose these dances is for the rush of partnered dancing, but with that no longer being an option, solo dancing has taken over. Solo shines and styling classes are all the rage now. More and more people are finding fulfillment in looking inward and moving by themselves, to the music they love.
I can’t wait till partner dancing becomes a possibility again, but in the meantime, I’ve managed to find a pretty fun substitute to keep me going till then.
Embracing the virtual world and upskilling:
Honestly, this one has been difficult. Right from figuring out the medium, to figuring out how to make salsa and bachata enjoyable without the element of partnering or social dancing, it has been a challenging journey. Although many of us thrive on physically being with our audiences and students, being able to share our knowledge on Zoom, Instagram live and our recorded tutorials has been amazing, given the circumstances.
Training with our favourite instructors from around the world has also never been easier or more economical. With the virtual world at our fingertips, taking lessons with teachers in Spain, New York or LA, minus the travelling expenses has been a huge advantage, and has allowed so many of us to upskill.
Talking it out:
For someone who prides herself on being fiercely independent, these new circumstances have found me leaning pretty heavily on my support group. Having long discussions with colleagues has been both cathartic and helpful. We as a group have found creative solutions to several issues we’ve faced by just being candid with each other. And although we are not yet back in business, having people to talk to and make plans with has kept us hopeful and enthusiastic about the future.
Forming genuine connections and trimming the fat:
Despite the nightmare that the past 18 months have been, there are some things that I feel extremely grateful for. In the bustle of pre-pandemic life, I have been guilty of carrying around several relationships, working and otherwise, that did not serve me well.
I would invest hours of my time and attention into unequal partnerships that left me feeling drained. I can imagine that the other party felt much the same. One of the consequences of quarantining at home has been, gaining some perspective on these relationships and some distance from them. The upshot of this, is that these sham relationships have organically faded away, leaving me with a lot of space to welcome better and more meaningful connections.
On the flip side, this past year has brought me closer to some wonderful people who enrich my life and support me in all the right ways. My team has been a huge source of strength to me. Having people understand and empathize with the specific challenges we face, give objective advice, and stand with us through the tough times is a blessing. Finding this posse of amazing folks has been my greatest take-away from the past year.
To just keep moving:
Literally and figuratively, just keep moving. As difficult as it is to remain upbeat about the future in these times, our attempt as a team has been to just keep moving forward, assuming the best, but staying mentally prepared for the worst. We workout, dance, make plans for a bright future and try to put in the work every day.
So, how does one move through the pandemic? The answer, according to me, is to just keep moving. Move with the knowledge that we dancers are an adaptable lot, hard-wired to flow with changing circumstances. Move with the knowledge that you will find the right people to move with you at the right times. And finally, move with the knowledge that dancing and art will find their way through the hardest times, as long as people like us keep loving them and tending to them.