More Stories From the Dance Front Lines – Checking Back In

by Steven Weisz for The Dance Journal

Back in May of this year, I posted the prelude to this article entitled Stories From The Dance Front Lines. It was a look at how randomly selected dancers, studios, and companies in our community were financially surviving during this pandemic. I offered anonymity in exchange for their providing me with real numbers and budgets for analysis. The article evolved into a collection of stories from the front lines of our dance community.

Now at the end of July, I decided to revisit with a random selection of dancers/movers in our community to see how things are doing. Once again, many freely offered the use of their names, companies, and studios, but I have decided to simply keep their anonymity throughout this article. Here are their stories and insights –

“This has been so much harder than I imagined.  I had applied for PPP funding but never was approved. I did manage to get a small loan against my home to keep my studio…well, to at least pay the rent. I have not been able to open yet. I tried some outdoor classes but there was limited attendance and the heat right now is just too much for our young dancers. I have enough for August rent but by September, if things do not change I will have to give up my studio after 12 years. It hurts. It hurts deeply. Not just for me personally but for all my students. I just do not see any other options right now.”

“As you know I am a recent (college) graduate and have really just started as a professional dancer doing a variety of pick up gigs and teaching when I can. Funny, I thought everything was starting to fall in to place. I really was beginning to feel independent and seeing myself as a dancer. Not that I ever saw myself as doing anything else. But now, honestly, I have just not been able to make it on my own. I have moved back in with my parents. I love my family but just never saw this coming. I still dance at home…for myself but now I guess I will need to consider finding another job if I even can. I know I am better off than some, but truly this just makes me feel sad all the time.”

“So before Covid, I had been playing around a bit with dance on film and a bunch of different platforms.  Now, this has allowed me to learn and create even more in this medium. So even though dance has always sought out a live audience, using video to reach a broader audience is finally catching on. Dance is so well suited for film. It may be some time before we can all convene again in a theater. So for now, I am loving using film/video and even participating in virtual dance festivals. Oh, so you asked about monetizing all this. Well, I think as we adopt this medium more and more, I will eventually be able to generate some income from this. But dancing was never about making money (well maybe some), it was about creating and I have found an outlet that allows me to do this.”

“Thanks for asking. I have tried to switch to virtual classes for all my students and to keep my instructors working. It was hard at first getting used to using Zoom and teaching this way. It got a bit better with time and I think we do a fairly good job. But the response has been mixed and the revenue is just not there. Honestly, we are down about 60% overall this last month. It just is not sustainable. In the meantime, I still have my studio and all the associated expenses and bills to pay. I have thought about trying to reopen, even at a limited capacity. But I am also a parent, and I just cannot put kids at risk. I would never forgive myself if just one of my students became ill. I am going to try to hang in there until Fall but I know the day is coming when I will need to re-evaluate everything and may have to face the inevitable.”

“I have actually just re-opened my studio for live classes. We are limiting the number of students in a class, doing social distancing with marked areas on the floor, and requiring everyone to wear masks. We also have closed off the dressing area, waiting room, and have restricted bathroom use. Everyone seems to be ok with following the rules so far. Not all parents have brought their students back but those that have seem grateful. I have of course been wiping everything down between use and we keep the windows open. I guess we will see how this all progresses but I really see no other way. Despite some minor criticism, it feels good to be dancing again and to see all my students.”

” I will admit it, I am not doing well. You’re the psychologist, right? I guess I am just depressed. I try to keep to a routine each day and try to dance every day, but I am lonely and bored. I find myself sleeping more and more during the day and awake most nights. Not very healthy, right? I miss my friends and I miss my fellow dancers. Yeah, we text and talk on the phone but it is not the same. I miss performing. I miss my freedom to just go and do. I just hate all this. I want things to be back the way they were.”

“So as a freelancer, I have not taken any dance jobs since mid-March. I applied for PUA and receive my weekly check and this has kept me going for now. I am at home, in my small apartment, full time doing the quarantine thing. I still stretch and dance each day. It is a release for me. Sometimes, I take an online class or two, but this is getting old. I miss dancing with others. God, I really do miss it. Makes me sad. Not sure what I will do if unemployment is not renewed. I just can’t think about it. I guess somehow things will work out. It’s just hard to think about all this…one day at a time. Sorry I don’t have more to offer.”

“I see this (COVID) as a challenge. It is a time to really reinvent ourselves, not only as dancers but as humans. I have had to think, really hard, about my values and my actions, and how they affect others. It has been a really good pause in life to re-evaluate what is important. I see my dance and choreography evolving as a result. I think when we come out of this….no when I come out of this…I will be a better person and a better dancer.”

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