Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the dance community has witnessed a change in the way dance is shared and taught. Collateral damages of the the international lockdown and often forgotten by their government, dance teachers had to find ways to keep working in order to survive. Virtual classes became the new way of dancing together and against all odds, it was not that bad.
What if real life was to be replaced by virtual life? What if the activities you used to do outside could be adapted to your home space? It is exactly what happened for the dance sector.
Max Loove is a Rolento/Hip-hop teacher who gives regular classes at the Juste Debout School, at the Studio MRG and at the Insolite School. For him, coping with the lockdown was very challenging: “When I heard about the lockdown, I went home, in Martinique. I knew the dance schools would be closed and that I would not be able to teach. At first, I did not do anything. I naively believed it would be over soon. But it lasted and back in Paris, I needed to make money to pay my rent.”
Max is an auto-entrepreneur. Professional dancers/teachers, can decide to do the same or to become part-time workers in the entertainment industry. Despite the 115 millions of euros allocated by the government to the art sector in order to cover the months of closure, dance teachers were still in a predicament: “Financially, what the government was giving us was not enough. We had to find solutions”, said Max. “Dancing with people in a studio was still impossible and I was in Martinique so I started to think about giving online classes. Many dance teachers had already chosen that option. I was very puzzled about it. I love to interact with people and I love being able to create an atmosphere in a room. It is very special and for me, that is what dancing is about. But unfortunately, you can’t do that online.”
Financially, what the government was giving us was not enough. We had to find solutions.Max Loove
Before Zoom became the application the most popular for any types of live classes (especially because the access to a “meeting” is better controlled), Instagram was perceived as the easiest way, for dancers, to connect with their community. “I hated it at first” recalled Max. “I was dancing by myself, while looking at a screen. When I asked a question, nobody would answer and when they did, I heard it 20 seconds later! But I think that the worst of it was that I could not see my students dancing.”
However, the dance teacher confessed that it got better with time and even acknowledged that giving online classes gave more visibility to his art while creating new relationships with the dance community: “Dancers from all around the world and from all level were taking my classes which is something that would have been tricky in real life. People would tell me that they liked my style and that I was doing a great job. It definitely pushed me. On social media, live sessions were also set between dance teachers and students to share their experiences. Again, this is something almost impossible in physical classes. When the class is over, most of the time, everybody is exhausted and gets home. I taught on Instagram for a month or so before I switched to Zoom. I needed money (laughs) ! To “ join” my courses, I charged 10 euros, 5 euros less than in my real life classes. I liked Zoom better because I could see my students. I could spot their mistakes and correct them. I felt better about online teaching. It was not impossible; it was just different. I am a positive guy. If it is all we have today, let’s make the most of it.”
It was not impossible; it was just different.Max loove
Despite the massive impacts of the pandemic on their lives, it is impressive to see that dancers did not give up. They brought dance studios to their students’ homes, who often danced outdoors, in parking lots or in their backyards.
To illustrate how even online, it is still possible to be together, American choreographer Thomeography released a dance clip of 20 African-American dancers on the song « Baby Girl » by singers ChloexHalle. Edited like it’s all simultaneously happening on Zoom, the video recreates the atmosphere of a live performance.
The performance ends by showing the pictures of the black women who has been killed by the police over the past few years. Despite the lockdown and no matter where it is performed, dance remains an art form politically powerful. By supporting each others, by sharing their experiences, their arts and by adapting to unprecedented working conditions, the members of the dance community showed the world that the love for art will never die.
image source : cours de dance au studio MRG©studio MRG