Campus Life | August 18th, 2020

Dance Organizations Pivot Amid COVID-19

By: Akilah Winters
Dance Organizations Pivot Amid COVID-19

In a world before the pandemic, dancers moved swiftly with their eye-catching uniforms as they competed against each other in Gaither Gymnasium. The hard-hitting moves filled the seats with unmatched energy. The crowd’s cheer roared throughout the room and fueled the dancers with a burst of energy and poise within their moves. Vivid, radiant lights followed them as they pranced across the stage.

After the coronavirus pandemic began its journey and transformed  the university in the beginning of the year, dance shows became non-existent and dance organizations are now questioning how they will continue expressing their art on campus.

For the Melodic Stepping Experience, Ladies of Torque and FAMU Elite Dance Squad, the 2020-2021 academic school year will be a year full of adjusting to the pandemic.

These dance organizations plan to keep their presence on campus through social media and still look forward to growing their organization by preparing for the spring 2021 semester despite COVID-19. 

“We [Elite Dance Squad] hold ourselves to high accountability. We will try to find ways to work around performing virtually moving forward and trying to practice and prepare for the spring semester,” said Briana Coulton, fourth-year FAMU Business Administration student and two-time FAMU Elite Dance Squad president.  

Some of these organizations plan to take this time to share more creative ideas from their general body members and make them happen. 

“This [pandemic] will give us time to plan for really creative shows for the future,” said Maya Robinson, a fourth-year political science student and immediate past president of the Melodic Stepping Experience. “We will try and find ways to fill these creative divisions that COVID-19 has taken by coming together with both the general body and executive board to make certain creative plans occur.”

Dance organizations across the Tallahassee community are taking this opportunity to become closer despite COVID-19 attempting to separate them. “The love of dance will keep us together. We want to grow our organization and we know that it is bigger than us,” said Coulton.

Practices tend to be a place where dancers truly develop a bond while they condition and collaborate on new choreography together from dusk to dawn.

“We have practices to keep our dancers conditioned for videos that we plan to do and we have bonding events to make sure we are close-knit when we return back to campus,” said Shanorri Ashley, a FAMU Doctorate of Pharmacy candidate and Ladies of Torque 2020-2021 president. “We are currently still waiting on an answer from the Office of Student Activities on how and when to have practices, but we plan to maybe do makeup classes and watch TV and break them up into different sessions to adhere to the gathering limit for bonding.” 

The pandemic has affected some planned events this past spring and summer for some of these organizations. “COVID-19 has slowed us down, we had a lot of things planned for the summer. Before the pandemic, we were going to have an all-girls show with all of the girls from all dance organizations. It would have been the first of its kind,” said Ashley.

In FAMU’s reopening plan, the guidelines adhere to CDC protocols and prohibit any larger than ten people. The plan also adds that if a gathering of less than ten were to occur then it must be in a facility that can adhere to the six feet apart social distancing rule.

“The pandemic has had a negative effect on how to operate membership, and we have been trying to find ways to keep our members active over the summer,” said Robinson. “We currently have 300 members total and we have 50 active members at the moment. After graduation, and with coronavirus, we are at least expecting 25 to 30 members to continue in the spring semester.” 

Some of the dance organizations’ membership is being affected by the coronavirus with a limited amount of space to adhere to the six feet apart CDC guidelines and by the growing fear some members share of contracting the virus. Some organizations are even expecting some of their members not to return to campus due to the virus.

“People are not willing to come around because they’re scared of getting COVID-19 which has been affecting our membership,” said Ashley. “We currently have at least 20 active members, and we are expecting at least 15 members to be active after this next semester with the coronavirus it could be more.”

Set Friday, freshman orientation and showcases are venues where some freshmen scout to see what organizations they will become interested in and what organizations they may want to join. With the pandemic, these events are either no longer occurring or will be virtual.

“I am kind of worried about freshmen not being able to attend these events because we are currently unsure if we will have an intake process at this moment,” said Kiarra Smith, a Doctorate of Pharmacy candidate and the newly elected president of the Melodic Stepping Experience.

If shows are permitted on campus, these dance organizations plan to create the safest way possible to go about carrying out a dance show. Some even plan to make pre-recorded virtual shows a trend to limit the spread of the virus. 

A pre-recorded show consists of a show that is prepared early and aired at a later date in which people would either pay or donate to watch the show. Normally, pre-recorded shows give dancers and creators time to prepare a well-thought-out show with a theme that pertains and pleases their audience. 

“If shows are allowed we would make sure that everyone wears masks and might even do a show centered around making people aware of safety precautions with the virus,” said Ashley. ”We would also try to have hand sanitizing stations if the campus allows events.” 

In order to perform in the show, members have to audition for dances and pieces they have learned in practice. With a limit of how many people can be in a gathering, practices will either be socially distanced or virtual. 

“We are considering the idea of pre-recorded shows in which we would create a registration for people to pay and get into our shows,” said Robinson. “People will have to practice on their own for these shows and auditions will most likely be virtual.”

COVID-19 has affected how people live and enjoy their daily lives. From grocery shopping to going to a concert or a football game, COVID-19 has put a pause on the world’s recreational activities.

Dance organizations are trying their best not to become obsolete on FAMU’s campus or the Tallahassee community. Many people flood Gaither Gymnasium and Al Lawson Multipurpose Center each year just to see these dancers express their art throughout the Tallahassee college community. These organizations will not let COVID-19 stop them from sharing their art with their community and expressing themselves.