Keeping the Arts Alive

By Hanna Yamato
Dance is one of the oldest and most prominent art forms today. The variety of dance genres are endless—varying from ballet, contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and more. Unfortunately, just like many other art industries, the dance industry has hit a financial crisis amidst this pandemic. Many professional ballet dancers, whose job is to perform onstage throughout the season, have been laid off, due to money shortage in many companies worldwide. These professional companies—such as ABT (American Ballet Theatre), NYCB (New York City Ballet), and PNB (Pacific Northwest Ballet), profited off of live-paying audiences throughout each season. With the rise in unemployment rates and financial insecurity, many dance companies were forced to close down, and adjust to online dance training.

Virtual dance training was a tremendous shift for all dancers. Just like distance learning, we utilize Zoom. However, the main challenge was not having the traditional studio space, where we have a marley (linoleum) floor, a sturdy ballet barre, mirrors, and loud stereo speakers. At home, if you are lucky, you would have an actual ballet barre and flooring. Most of us, including myself, had to adjust to using a chair as a barre and dancing on a carpet floor. Since the marley floor at the studio is a “sprung” platform specifically designed for dancers, wearing pointe shoes on any other surface is unsafe and detrimental to our joints and muscles. Consequently, virtual dance training was not only limiting our movement, but also stunted our ability to develop professionally.

Although online dance training has often proven demanding, dancers all over the world have come up with a plethora of creative ways to promote dance and share their love for this artform. For instance, many studios were unable to showcase their annual winter performance: The Nutcracker to a live audience in 2020. Esteemed professional Kathryn Morgan, a former soloist with NYCB (New York City Ballet) and MCB (Miami City Ballet), has utilized social media platforms like YouTube, to edit and create a “One Woman Snow Scene | Nutcracker in the Studio” video, which has reached thousands of dancers worldwide. In this video, Morgan performs the entire excerpt of the iconic, Waltz of the Snowflakes from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, in a studio space all by herself. This is quite a challenge, because typically, this waltz is performed by 12 female dancers. Moreover, many other professional dancers have dedicated their time to teaching online classes open to dancers of all ages/abilities, and even conducting classes through Instagram live videos. By expressing their devotion and love for dance in a rather non-traditional way, dancers have made use of their resources in an innovative fashion to enlighten those during these unprecedented times.

With the pandemic, the current circumstances are not ideal, but dancers as a community have learned to adapt, stay in shape, and remain ingenious. Uniting as a global community of dancers, we can only hope that we can perform in front of a live audience and feel that adrenaline again soon. Luckily, some companies and studios, including the one I attend have had the privilege of filming our performances (socially distanced) and presenting them virtually. I encourage all of you, dancer or not, to consider watching these virtual performances and help keep the arts alive. Below is a list of links to support and watch 🙂