How did the pandemic change you?

As a dancer, the pandemic was devastating, particularly the lockdown. Dance is a social art form – we take class together, we rehearse together, we perform together – for an audience – we learn from each other – in person… you get the picture – the point is that a basic premise of dance is that you are in a studio with other people.

Well, what is it that you learn in a room with other people? Or what do you need to be in a room with other people to learn? What is it that we are actually learning in a dance class?

I appreciate difficulty because I Iike problem-solving. Going remote revealed a lot about where the learning in a dance class actually happens. So much information is transmitted non-verbally. Instead it is shared through physicality and space in all three dimensions. While my eyes only see what is in front of them (and the periphery), my body is reading the information of other bodies in space through kinesthetic empathy and proprioception. I am paying attention to how someone uses gravity to re-direct their pathway through space. I am sensing the back of their body, even though I cannot see it, by mirroring their movements and paying attention to the room.

Dancing on the computer stripped away most of that information. Dancers had to rely primarily on their sense of sight, and we found that the information our eyes provide is not always trustworthy and never enough. That using words to describe the direction and force of a dance step was inefficient compared to being able to do it together and feel the energy. But even in that difficulty, there was opportunity – to be more clear – to be more direct – and to better understand what was “legible” on the screen.

We all got better at seeing each other on video and developed new skills in the process. As you might guess, the dance on film genre has exploded since the Zoom-boom, and some of the work is really interesting with how it plays with perspective and location. It remains to be seen what longer lasting effects the pandemic has had on the field of dance.

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