Pirouettes during a Pandemic
Before returning to the dance studio in October, SJS dancers had to get creative, substituting a ballet barre for the back of a chair and the smooth floor of the studio for the carpet of their room.
Once the students returned to campus, the SJS dance program altered its practices to ensure the safety of all students in the studio. In addition to wearing a mask throughout class, each dancer remained in their own 10x10 square, marked off by masking tape. Due to these physical restrictions, dance instructors had to modify their typical curriculum, reimagining combinations and movement to fit the limited space.
“We do a little bit of floor work here and there, but we are trying to limit the space we travel in,” Upper School Dance Instructor Victoria Arizpe said. “Combinations aren’t as long because of that, so we are not building as much stamina as we normally would.”
Instructors also give dancers frequent breaks in order to limit physical exertion because the masks can inhibit airflow and cause overheating. In another effort to decrease the risk of dancing during the pandemic, instructors divided their classes in half.
“The largest class we have is fourteen, which is big because we’re in a tight space,” Arizpe said. “We have certain days that we have half of the class dancing and the other half observing.”
After each class, each student, whether they were observing or dancing, is required to wipe down their area with a disinfectant spray designed specifically for the dance floors to prepare for the next class.
Coronavirus restrictions have also affected the annual Spring Dance Concert, which showcases all levels of Upper School dance in April. Typically, students will perform pieces choreographed by the dance instructors, in addition to pieces from guest choreographers.
This year, however, the dance department cannot invite guest choreographers to the school because of the risk of coronavirus exposure. Despite this loss, Arizpe and her fellow instructors still plan on holding the Spring Dance Concert this year and will work intensely to perfect their own choreographed pieces
“The performances will be videotaped, and that gives us the ability to dance larger and not have to wear a mask if we are dancing outside,” Arizpe said. “We can teach the choreography and give the dancers assignments to tape at home.”
Ultimately, the execution of each piece depends on the creativity and vision of the choreographer. “It’s going to be fun to see what we come up with,” Arizpe said. “I’m excited to see how we can express ideas through dance in other venues."
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