Dancing in the Time of Coronavirus

June 1, 2020 | By Kurt Loft

Saturday, June 13, 11am-noon
1st Ave. South from 27th-23rd Streets
St Petersburg

Charlotte Johnson performing look/see (the view from here), choreographed by Helen Hansen French, from OUR TOWN: A Moving Dance Tour of St. Pete – photo by Tom Kramer

We could all use a bit of kinesthetic empathy right now.

Leave it to a dancer to spin such elegant words, which describe our ability to understand the feelings of others simply by observing their movements. At a time of social distancing and isolation, we need more of it. But how?


“Dance is a social art form and it happens when other people are in the room — but right now we can’t have other people in the room,’’ says Andee Scott, choreographer and professor of dance at the University of South Florida. “I value the theater, but in the past few years I’ve been trying to let people know dance doesn’t just happen in theaters.’’

Case in point begins on Saturday, June 13 with Dance in the Time of Coronavirus, the first in a series of socially-distanced performances over the summer featuring local artists.

The free event takes place along 1st Avenue S. in St. Petersburg, from 27th St. S. to 23rd St. S. The audience can ride bikes or walk along as 35 performers present a one-hour episode called Reverberation beginning at 11 a.m.

Artists will line up 10 feet apart as they move in sync to a recurring musical canon. Called a durational dance, it has no official “beginning” or “end” other than the hour mark, and the piece loops back every 10 minutes.

Andee Scott leading dancers and audience in OUR TRAIL – photo by Charlotte Suarez

During our self-imposed isolation, many of us have been devouring books, re-watching movies and listening to songs or symphonies. But these are captured in time, art forms that are pleasures of repetition.

Dance in the Time of Coronavirus is alive in the moment and reflects what’s happening today. The project is the brainchild of Scott and her colleague, Amanda Sieradzki, founders of the local companies, Dance Linkages and Poetica, respectively. Both believe in the value of live performance and the responsibility of artists to rise to the challenges of our time. This series emphasizes the importance of building a community for art and artists that reinforces the passion of being human.

“We dreamed it up out of a conversation about how can we do the things we love when we can’t do the things we love’’ because of the coronavirus, Scott explains. “It’s important to find a way to have live performance because of the unique ability to connect us to our own humanity. Dance reminds us that we have bodies, souls, that we aren’t alone. And right now, dancers are well equipped to apply our skills to the current moment.’’

Amanda Sieradzki – photo by Alvaro G. Gabaldon

The new project follows on the heels of Scott’s OUR TOWN, a walking tour of site-specific dances in downtown St. Petersburg, and OUR TRAIL, a series of three live dance and music performances on the Pinellas Trail. But those were conceived before a pandemic changed everything, including the way people move in public.

“Right now, everybody is aware of their space, and everyone is told how to move and stay apart from one another, so in a way we’re all getting dance training,’’ Scott says. “We’re all being choreographed (even in grocery stores). It’s really interesting for me because this is what we do in dance all the time.’’

Collective Soles Dance Company in OUR TOWN: A Moving Dance Tour of St. Pete – photo by Charlotte Suarez

Instructions for Safe Viewing

. . .  During the performance, dancers will be lined up 10 feet apart, along the sidewalk. The audience will “enter” the piece on 1st. Ave. S. at 27th Street, on their bicycles, in the dedicated bike lane, and watch the dance unfold along their ride.

. . .  We ask that people ride single file, maintain social distance, and keep moving at a reasonable speed. 

. . .  If you are not a bicycle rider, please feel free to walk the performance on the north side of 1st Ave S. (on the opposite side from the performers), to ensure distance and safety for the dancers.

. . .  While we cannot enforce a mask policy, we ask that audience members wear a mask as a courtesy to others.


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