Between the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals and the World Series, sports have been getting a lot of attention recently. Politicians have fought hard, for better or for worse, for the return of televised sports. As lives are derailed by COVID-19, this return has become an outlet and a way to return to the normal for many. Youth sports teams are similarly pushing to be able to train and compete, and have been successful in holding some socially distanced tournaments over the summer. Seemingly left behind, however, is the world of dance.
Dance classes are usually held indoors. Due to pandemic restrictions on group meetings, especially ones that take place indoors, dance classes have been in hot water. At Berkeley High School (BHS), no groups are officially allowed to meet. Any dance programs at BHS would need to take place over Zoom. For Dance Production, a large BHS dance group, this is big news. Dance Production performances are a staple of the school year at BHS, attracting large audiences for multiple nights. For this tradition to continue in the 2020-21 school year, it would likely need to move online. Zoom performances are growing more and more common, as they have become the only option.
Dance studios that are not affiliated with BHS have been dealing with this issue since last school year, but also have more leeway with their options. This is because they could potentially have socially distanced classes in person. One dance school dealing with this dilemma is the Berkeley Ballet Theatre, a prominent youth ballet company in the East Bay. Their main solution to the stay-at-home order of the last six months has been to maintain class over Zoom.
Miumi Shipon, a junior at BHS, has frustration with the Zoom classes. “A lot of dancers are grieving the way they used to be able to appreciate their art,” said Shipon. One dancer at the Berkeley Ballet Theatre has been able to stay engaged by having outdoor, socially distanced rehearsals for a video project which is to replace the school’s annual production of the Nutcracker. Like BHS, Berkeley Ballet Theatre is in an uncomfortable situation as far as considering what the future will look like. With no end in sight, they are forced to act safely and slowly. For now, like Shipon says, these are the only options.
Dance classes at BHS, like Afro-Haitian, are also being held over Zoom. Despite the added complexity that results from not having a common space, students have been doing warm-ups and learning Samba choreography. A BHS senior and dancer in the Afro-Hatian program at BHS, Avery Nudel, said, “… After a couple months of barely dancing, even just doing a warm-up makes me happy.” While they are not perfect, BHS dance programs are still offering an outlet to students, and for that reason are perhaps even more important right now than before the pandemic.
Similarly, BHS’ Dance Production has somewhat of an uncertain future. According to Nudel, a dancer in the class, the plans for the annual shows are not fully fleshed out. So far, they have considered various online options such as having socially distanced dancers in person with an audience over Zoom. As of now, with the rapid changes in case numbers and what is considered to be safe, nothing is certain.
What is certain is that the next few months, and possibly even years, are going to see a lot of changes in the way athletic groups congregate. The world of dance is likely going to feel the ripple of those changes for a long time. For better or for worse, one of the best options remains to be optimistic about the future.