A Dancer’s Perspective on the Pandemic

By Sara Senecal

We’re all adapting, all making necessary changes to our daily lives amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.  People are being laid off, businesses are closing, and those with jobs are asked to work from home, many with kids who are also home while schools remain closed.  It seems everyone is making changes and each person’s adventure navigating this new forced lifestyle is different from one another’s.  As a professional dancer with ESDC for 10 years and a dance educator in studios, colleges, and public and private schools my experience has been one of uncertainty and confusion, but it has also been an amazing lesson in creative problem solving.  I think many of us have found a new way to utilize our powerful creativity to bring joy, stability, and MOVEMENT back to those around us.

Selfishly, spring is a time I look forward to as a way to make a lot of money before our month off in the summer.  As I finished my Master’s program in Choreography from Jacksonville University, I chose to participate less in ESDC’s Arts in Education residencies in the fall and winter, and take on a lot more teaching in the spring, after I graduated.  The spring is also typically our busiest time for Arts in Education work.  With schools closed, this work seemed impossible.  The financial worries began to creep in, not only for myself but for my fellow dancers.  I know how important this time is for all of us.  

So, Ellen, the dancers, and I strapped on our creative problem solving hats and got to work!  We’ve been busy writing scripts, generating video content, and moving furniture around our houses to find the best places to dance. To continue our work with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Classical Kids program, we’ve been able to create video content for dancers of all ages to be shared on SPAC’s website!  We are also able to continue our work with Abram Lansing Elementary School, partnering with their 3rd grade classrooms integrating Social Studies curriculum and dance through virtual learning. Other planned in-school residencies have continued in this new format as well.  These videos will allow us to continue our work and bring dance to students at home.  I cannot imagine trying to homeschool children right now! I hope these videos provide kids with a creative outlet, keep them moving and learning, and give parents a rest for a moment.  

I also currently teach for two dance studios, Dance Force and Redemption Dance Institute.  Both studios have moved to online classes via Zoom, a platform for live virtual classes.  The other teachers and I have been discussing the best way to set up the classes, how to get information to families, and what the most effective methods for teaching might be.  It’s all trial and error.  I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on my pedagogical practices and how to navigate this new terrain.  I, like most dancers I know, are very physical learners.  Seeing and hearing is not the same as sensing, so I typically use a lot of tactile methods.  As a result of virtual teaching, I’ve had to explore how to use my words more effectively, a great lesson I will take with me after this all ends.  

I think we can all agree this is difficult and, frankly, sometimes awful.  We all want to be doing what we love with the people we love.  However, the creative problem solving, ingenuity, and dedication I’ve seen from everyone is inspiring.  I always knew in time of need we would come together to make life better for those who need it; I’m glad to do my part and help through my love of dance.