6 Things Dancers Have Learned Through Quarantine
Yep. Quarantine. Does anyone else feel like they would donate one-and-a-half kidneys to be back at the studio? The convention centers? The STAGEEEEE? Me too.
Zoom dance classes have been simultaneously lifesaving, life-altering and life-threatening! It opened a new venue of training, and broadened our options. But between glitches, “wait, was that the right arm or left?”, bad WiFi, “barely off” sound or no sound at all... there were several times we nearly chucked our computer out the window! Lucky for us in Utah, studios are opening again- praise the Lord. I never thought I would crave that dirty dancer feet smell of studio #7. But I do. And I can't WAIT to bathe in it!
As we slowly make our way back to the studio - there are a few things from this quarantine that I hope we hang on to and never forget.
6 THINGS DANCERS HAVE LEARNED THROUGH QUARANTINE
1. Dancing is NOT an individual sport.
It feels like, for years, I have tried to convince my students - dance is not a solo sport. We work on our individual technique, we learn solo routines, we participate in private lessons... but dance is a COMMUNITY. Dance is really nothing without the people we do it alongside. Through quarantine, we danced. We trained. We learned combos. We stretched. And we are SO grateful for the technology, willing teachers and organizations which helped us continue developing our talents and feeding our passion from home. Without this, quarantine would have been absolutely unbearable! But something was seriously different. Something was missing - and it took us a few weeks to pinpoint it.
WE NEEDED OUR PEOPLE! Our teacher fixing our port de bras with her hand as she passed us at the barre. The "ayyyyyye" from the other side of the room when we nailed the combo. The energy shared through eye contact from across the room as we entered for our favorite section of the production number. The familiar touch of our teammate coming into the lift in our lyrical piece. The heat of 18 other dancers in the room breathing (or not breathing...) through adagio. The laugh-til-you-pee moments with your teammates when your passionate battement landed you right on your tush. The secretly shared eye roll when the director calls out "one last time!" for the third time. And most of all, the spiritual connection between you and your people moving in unison - that POWER of feeling like one collective body moving through space and time - that CONNECTION that can only be fully understood if you have felt it before. The way our souls intertwine as we share something so intimate, spiritual, and passionate with the people we call family. May we never again take that for granted.
2. Teachers are priceless.
They have always been here for us - but often we didn't fully appreciate it. Walking into a room and knowing that there was someone there who wouldn't let you be lazy. That held you to high expectations. Who would rather yell than shrug. Who spent hours of their day stressing over the third set of eight in the chorus. They are our second parents - and we never knew how much we would miss them once we were forced to be separated! Many have learned obscene amounts of technological hullabaloo they otherwise never would have cared an ounce for - just for you. Just to make sure they could keep watching your turn out and keep holding you accountable for your knees. But mostly because, let's face it... they love us WAY more than we ever realized! (And let's just point out, most artistic people are technologically challenged - so all this Zoom nonsense has been a major pain for them! But they did it - for you.)
My hope is - as we return to the studio, we never take for granted those amazing men and women who teach. They care about their students more than is probably healthy... but they wouldn't have it any other way.
3. The Studio is more than four walls and a ceiling.
Like I mentioned before... there's a smell. You all know the smell. Honestly - I have taught everywhere from Costa Rica to Canada, and every studio has it! That sweaty dance shoe smell is impossible to avoid. But how I long to be back surrounded by that stink again! There's rooms that are too small for rehearsal, but we have to rehearse in them anyway. Walls that need painting. Toilets clogged with - well, draw your own conclusion. Missing AV cords and iPhone dongles. The one light that flickers. 2.4 inches of dust on the ceiling fans. Peeling marley tape. That one part of the mirror that makes you look twice your size. The barre that gives you tiny slivers. The speakers that short out and the air conditioning that always crashes during mid-summer intensive. But MAN - how we desperately miss that place! The smells, the slivers, even the "fat mirror".
90% of our best life memories take place within those walls. It's where we've become stronger, better and so much more than we thought we could have become. We will take it all back with joy because it is HOME. It may be imperfect, but it is home! May we never take it for granted in the future!
4. The stage is not an optional part of dance.
Now- I will stand corrected here. I have told my dancers once or twice (or 4 million times) that they should dance only for the feeling it gives them. Not for applause. Not for a trophy. Not for the accolade. And while I still believe that the deepest part of us should dance for the love of it - I have learned that the stage is an essential component of that love. The feeling of the lights warming your face as the audience goes quiet - that is something we shouldn't have to live without. It's not even the fact that there are people "watching" - but that there are people that we get to SHARE with. More spirits, more souls with which we connect. What is a storyteller without the listener? We work for that moment - the moment we can make them feel. Make them think. Give them chills. Make them laugh. Bring them to tears. That's when the magic happens, and we cannot live the dance without it.
5. The dance community is, above all else, a loving and supportive community.
This often becomes clouded. We see so much competitiveness in the industry. So much cut-throat intensity. Even within a team, there often arises jealousy, drama, and negative emotions. But when tragedy strikes, what does the dance community do? We freaking PULL TOGETHER! I saw more free classes (by big-name choreographers), more creative ways to train, more discounts, giveaways, social media challenges, cross-studio training, virtual competitions and conventions, and incredibly generous resources pouring from the dance community than I ever would have imagined. If you are going to try and break the dance community - we will come back 100 times stronger! We have proven that it doesn't matter your age, training level, location, studio, genre-focus, or talent. We are a community bound by so much collective passion, and that is a bond that supersedes all jealousy or competitiveness. May we always remember that.
6. Not least, we have learned that we are more resilient and strong than we ever gave ourselves credit for.
We have spent weeks on this emotional rollercoaster and we are certainly ready to exit stage left and move onto the next chapter. But there's no way we will make it out the other side of this without gaining a massive amount of strength. If you'd have asked us six months ago what we would have done if we had to be quarantined away from our studios, conventions, competitions, and stages - we would have answered "nope. no way. I can't do that." But guess what - not only have we done it, but we have done it with a determination unmatched. We have cleared out garages, patio furniture, dining room tables; built ballet barres, found the perfect armchair for oversplits, kicked more than one side table over, and suffered 6 stubbed toes on the door jam... and we have continued to dance. Were there moments we felt weak? Hundreds of tears shed over missed opportunities? Frustration and anxiety over the unfairness and unknown? Of course! But that doesn't mean we are weak. We push through it - which means we are stronger than we realized! Pushing through the easy moments, that's nothing new. But pushing through the moments where it seems too much to bear? THAT is something. And the amazing thing is? All this resilience we've built up is now a part of us! All this strength is now in our wheelhouse to help us through the struggles we will undoubtedly face in our future. We have always known that dance builds more than just good technique - but dancers of the quarantine era will have something that even the studio cannot adequately teach. We will have this experience that brought us all to a new level in our commitment, dedication, appreciation, and love for the dance. That, may we keep with us always, and never forget.
Myself and everyone here at Tiger Friday have been immensely inspired by you. Our hearts swell with pride as we watch you grow and become more than we thought possible. More than we could have done as young, training dancers. So, be proud! Don't let this experience leave us bitter. Let's take it all in and let it give us new life. We can only go up from here - together.
Bree Hafen, founder, Tiger Friday
I love this…I play piano for dancers and I too miss all these wonderful aspects of dance, community and the deep soulful connection to these beautiful artists/athletes! This brought tears to my eyes ….thank you!