Dancers’ Reflections on Unexpected Interruptions in their Journey
As things were “getting back to normal”, Cyndee Woolley of C2 Communications approached me about creating a project where student artists could share their reflections on the pandemic’s impact on them through prose, poetry, and photography. The initial focus of the project is on the experience of students who were in high school during the pandemic. The huge impact on dancers who were still in high school or conservatory was largely ignored.
“Brava!” to the initial group of 12 dancers (11 students and one professional) who shared their reflections.
Thank you to Arts Greensboro and the NC Arts Council for our seed grant to get started!
Please take the time to read the reflections and see what resonates with you.
The Need for an Outlet
“Establishing & Re-establishing”
by Christina Motley, MA, BC-DMT, LCMHC
Christina Motley, a dancer and dance therapist, explores her own experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of her insights on re-establishing and emerging back into a changed world as a transformed artist.
I began 2020 as a fresh Master’s graduate and credentialed registered dance/movement therapist with my first full-time position at an inpatient psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Chicago. I was also a part-time creative movement instructor for a ballet school in the city and an assistant dance instructor for a varied-style adaptive dance class in the suburbs. At the same time, I was beginning to train and perform again after two years of struggling to understand what “dance” meant to me in my current body/mind/spirit as a professional dancer.
Andrew Bowen, M.Photog., CPP
I was beginning to focus more on how to better serve the dance community before the pandemic. However, I emerged fully and singly focused on creating a dancer-centric studio experience that far exceeded just a photoshoot.
Pauses in our creative pursuits and careers affect each of us differently, be it professionally, physically, philosophically, or artistically. The COVID-19 pandemic created a dramatic pause in the dance industry and caused dancers and dance-adjacent professionals to reflect on what we had, and what we wanted for our futures.
When the pandemic hit, I had just begun narrowing my photographic focus to the artistry of dance. I was slated to be in NYC for the first of 4 in-person workshops over a two-year period with Rachel Neville, honing my skills and learning how to be a better partner for the dancers who came to my studio. That first workshop, and the next, never happened. Like most dancers, we retreated to Zoom and tried our best to create something vaguely resembling normal. It was not great.
When we had a partial lifting of restrictions that allowed dancers to come to the studio, I reached out to previous clients. One mother confided that the prospect of coming to dance in my studio had brought the first smile to her daughter’s face she had seen since March. I can not adequately express the depth of impact those words had.
The ensuing months were a mix of managing health concerns and trying to support dancers who may not have felt they were in their best form. I gained insights into not just the unique artistic nature of dancers, but also came to realize how deeply I cared for the artists I interacted with, and by extension the dance community at large. I spoke with dancers who weren’t certain of their identity since they no longer were dancing, and with dancers who were immensely grateful to have a stage on which to perform, even if the audience was just their mom and I.
I emerged from the pandemic having shed the parts of my business that were not focused on the needs of the dance community. A new Andrew Bowen and a new Andrew Bowen Studios were born. I have not looked back, nor regretted a single aspect of that choice.
The vision for the project is to share stories of dancers who experience any interruption: financial, injury, relocation, or otherwise. In speaking with Claudia Folts of Tutu.com about this project, she was very enthusiastic and suggested expanding beyond the stories of interruptions to performance. She proposed two additional segments. One that focuses on the end of one’s performance career, either voluntarily or otherwise. The second segment is envisioned to be about how dancers created new lives for themselves after the stage.
To that end, we have 4 story categories defined:
- Student Stories of Interruptions (High School or College)
- Professional Stories of Interruptions (Working Dancers, full or part-time)
- Leaving the Stage (Decisions to retire: voluntary or otherwise)
- Second Acts (Stories of new careers after the stage)
The goal is to make this an ongoing project that will give voice to artists confronted with challenges along their journey. We hope that sharing these stories can provide artists with a place to connect and heal from struggles that may otherwise leave them feeling isolated. We are titled this project “Stage… Interrupted” to leave room for many interpretations and open the doors as widely as possible.
OUR PATRONS & PARTNERS
This project would not have happened without the support of our patrons. Cash financing allows us to help defer travel expenses, acquire props and costumes to tell the stories better, maintain the website, and continue to expand the reach and impact of the project.
In particular, we are grateful to ArtsGreensboro and the NC Arts Council for providing the seed grant to get this project started.
Our partners have moved mountains to make this project happen, supply costuming, help the storytellers tell their stories, and create the art. We are eternally grateful for the support we received from the following companies and organizations: