In the enormity of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting us, dance isn’t at the top of the list: some among us are ill and dying, some are losing their places of shelter and income, and some are struggling to balance work with home-from-school children. Culture nevertheless in times of crisis brings us together at a time when millions of people are suffering and physically apart. When social and performing arts events have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely it only serves to remind us how much we rely on culture to bring us comfort, inspiration, and hope.
Not that dance is any one thing or resides at any one address. It occurs in tiny rooms and public arenas, streets, stages, kitchens, studios…and virtually. Performing arts companies are targeting new means to stream performances online. Dance and fitness teachers have found ways to stream class and parties on social media and video conferencing as well, and are often donating their sessions for free. Dance brings joy and healing. Here is a list of some recent ways we have adapted to still dance for healing during the crisis:
1. Iranian Health Care Teams Dance to Boost Morale
With the emergence of the coronavirus in Iran, health care teams are not only treating patients, but doctors and nurses are trying to boost morale by posting videos of themselves dancing in a hospital environment. Either done individually or in groups, these videos have become a coronavirus dance challenge and new and more creative videos keep coming. If you have a chance to watch the videos you will see traditional Iranian folk and contemporary party dances performed in hazmat “bunny” suits with face masks. In one video a nurse leads patients lying in hospital beds to raise their arms and clap with her. Other clips show teams dancing an exciting Kurdish halay or a Bandari dance from the Persian Gulf region.
In Iran, dancing in public can be punishable by law. This makes the dance videos ever more remarkable because they are recorded in Iran today. Of course, these videos do not appeal to everyone, and some Iranian tweeters denounced them as “disobedience.” Fortunately, the identity of most the dancers are hidden by masks and garb. I however read on social media that one nurse had been arrested.
But in this era of coronavirus, it hasn’t stopped doctors and nurses in full gear “fighting” in high spirits. At a time of fear and distrust in the government, their dancing has boosted morale. So far, it appears that the Iranian authorities are tolerating this “dance challenge”, and some video clips have been seen over 100,000 times via Twitter, Instagram, and other social media.
“Words cannot express our gratitude for their efforts.” reformist activist Azar Mansour wrote on the Internet. “They take care of the sick and support the morale of their citizens and their families.”
2. Neighborhood Street Dance
Residents on a street in Cheshire in Frodsham, UK are coming out of their houses daily for a socially distanced communal dance session. Fitness instructor Janet Woodcock, 54, came up with the idea after one of her neighbors said she missed her fitness class. Since late March, Springbourne residents step out to the street at 11am, keeping a safe distance from one another, and do 10 minutes of dance exercise led by Woodcock. Each session starts with the Neighbors theme tune, followed by other specially chosen songs like Dancing in the Street, Our House by Madness and Tom Jones’s It’s Not Unusual – a street favorite.
“It’s really simple stuff, but it’s about people moving, seeing one another and just having fun really,” Woodcock said. “We’ve all promised a big street party when it’s over and I think everybody will feel like they know each other a bit better.”
A continent away, a neighborhood in Denver, Colorado has found a daily Zumba dance can raise spirits. Holly Porterfield has inspired neighbors (and on one day an Amazon delivery driver) to workout to Zumba regularly in the street.
Source: theguardian.com, Fox 31 Denver
3. Grandfather and Granddaughter Have Socially Distant Dance-off
Kira Neely, 6, is used to seeing her grandfather, 80-year-old Marvin Neely, each day. The pair live across the street from each other in Nashville, Tennessee, and normally play together, take walks together and do activities together at Kira’s school.
So when coronavirus social distancing began, they had to get creative to spend time together. In an ABC News internet video they amuse and surprise themselves taking turns busting moves facing each other from opposite curbs of their street.
4. #ClubQuarantine Dance Party 100,000 Participants Strong
With so many Americans social distancing at home, DJ D-Nice, with nearly 700,000 Instagram followers, hosted a virtual party as he spun music from his home March 25. Dubbed “#ClubQuarantine,” the virtual livestreams on Instagram live attracted more than 100,000 participants all collectively listening to music and dancing in their homes.
5. ‘TikTok doctor’ Makes Millions Smile with his Viral Dance Videos
Dr. Jason Campbell, a resident physician in Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland and on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, has emerged as a social media star. He encourages his social media followers to stay healthy and hopeful during this unprecedented crisis with his dance videos. With his videos performing the Cha-Cha slide to trendy TikTok challenges he reminds us that one can have a little fun even while social distancing. Jason says he tries to do one video each day and each time his videos get thousands – sometimes millions – of views.
6. Spontaneous Dance Solo at Noon
Last Friday I received a call on Facebook to stop whatever I was doing for a spontaneous dance on the balcony, front porch, driveway, etc. at 12 noon Saturday with or without music. The idea was to dance some good vibes out. The request was broadcast by friend and Persian dance artist and instructor Shahrzad Khorsandi. Since it came from a bona-fide international dance authority it had to be done. Later she sent an enthusiastic video recorded of her jumping and waving her arms with perfect hand styling outside in the rain. By the comments collected on Facebook the moment appeared to be shared by a dance legion. This was a wonderful moment many people shared that didn’t seem distant at all.
If you are a dancer or dance leader what can you do during this crisis to improve morale and community? Here are some suggestions:
1. Consider online classes and gatherings for closed dance studios and halls
Many studios not only quickly explored the option of teaching recital choreography or classes online but many have put it to action in less than two weeks.
2. Ramp up your social media presence to foster a sense of community during closure.
Use innovation to bring your community together during this time of separation. Use a Facebook group for your dance community and invite them to upload content to the page based on the themes like dance challenges. Share a video of yourself as a coronavirus challenge and dance “some good vibes out.” Dance with others if you may in the video but practice physical distancing not social distancing. Whether streaming live or recorded it is a real mood booster seeing the friends you miss sharing what you like.
3. Be the leader.
Every crisis is an opportunity. It’s stressful to be a leader when you have to respond to an evolving situation outside your control. Focus on what you can do, communicate with clarity and compassion, make the best possible choices, and remove negative thoughts.
4. Put your own oxygen mask on first.
Attitude will shape this experience for us. To survive this and make the best decisions we need to remain healthy and whole. Not just washing hands and social distancing. Getting sleep. Connecting with loved ones. Being in nature. Eating well. Music, prayer, and dance. Make sure you give whatever you need to feel good inside to yourself. Not tomorrow–today. Your bucket needs to stay as full as possible so that you can share the goods with others.
Movement soothes, alleviates stress, moves emotion through and out. We need that now more than ever. We can’t be certain how long the stay-at-home order will remain in effect but we will continue to find ways to dance until we reach the other side of this.