Arts and Entertainment Editor
Dance is a collaborative art relying on motion and touch; this physicality is enhanced by lighting and sound when performed on stage. Now that most dancers in the Wooster Dance Company can no longer rehearse in groups due to stricter COVID-19 regulations, creativity is essential to maintaining that collaboration. This semester, it is such creativity that allows dancers to continue practicing and preparing to perform.
Emily Baird, visiting assistant professor of theatre and dance and director of the upcoming Fall Dance Concert, says that the Department of Theatre & Dance has changed its operations significantly to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. “[Before classes went remote] my Modern Dance class was in-person only, which was … so I could ensure students were practicing proper technique and not causing injury,” she said. “I now livestream all three classes over Zoom, which is particularly challenging for the type of work we do in this discipline.”
Despite the difficulties that come with remote dance classes, Baird is impressed with how the classes have turned out. “I feel that the students in all my classes have been able to grasp the material and grow as movers even though they’re not able to do any physical touching,” she commented. “It really becomes an opportunity to be more creative … this semester just doesn’t look exactly like any that we’ve experienced, and that’s okay.”
The dance company is still planning on holding a Fall Dance Concert this year, though those interested in attending should expect a performance different from past years in its medium but not in its quality. As Baird puts it, the event is more of a “dance film festival” than a concert. Instead of a live performance, individual dances will be combined in a video compilation, with some pieces filmed outside and others edited together by more technologically savvy choreographers. There is no set release date yet for the video, but the department hopes to make the video accessible for a couple of weeks after it is released.
Rehearsals for the dance concert are running similarly to the dance classes, with small groups of no more than three or four students practicing outside in person and many other students interacting over video calls. Sarah Renaker ’21 has been a part of the dance company since her first year at Wooster and will be performing in this concert. Though she mentioned the difficulties of working remotely with choreographers, some of which are in different time zones or countries, she expressed her excitement at participating in an unconventional performance. “We’re getting a different side of dance than we normally do,” she explained. “We can’t put on a regular performance [in the theatre], but I like that we’ve been able to continue dancing in a way that’s more modern and technologically interactive and not just onstage.”
Baird, like Renaker, is excited for the virtual performance and stresses the lasting importance of the performing arts, especially during a pandemic. “I would encourage everyone in the Wooster community to watch the productions this semester, not only because everyone is working incredibly hard on them but also because they will be genuinely good,” she said. “Even in the midst of a global pandemic, we are finding ways to dance, create and share our art.”