Theater and dance companies adapt to comply with social distancing guidelines
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted several different industries that rely on in-person gatherings including the performing arts. Due to social distancing guidelines, performing arts companies and workers had to adapt to these unprecedented times.
Steve Isaacson, the treasurer and co-producer of the Davis Musical Theatre Company, noted that the pandemic left a negative impact on the performing arts industry as a whole.
“Broadway shut down until God knows when,” Isaacson said. “Community theaters are going out of business left and right. Everybody’s had to come up with either new ideas or go out of business.”
Laguna Creek High School’s Infinite Motion Dance Company Director Lauren Galvez reflected via email on the difficulty of working in the performing arts amid the pandemic.
“As a worker in the performing arts during COVID-19, it has been extremely difficult,” Galvez said via email. “It’s hard trying to be flexible when you’re trying to solidify pieces and get a set schedule going for these kids.”
Isaacson explained how Davis Musical Theatre Company was in their 35th anniversary season and preparing for upcoming shows when the pandemic began. After lockdown started, they could no longer have live rehearsals or shows and transitioned to Zoom.
“[…] we were kind of stopped in our tracks in March,” Isaacson said. “We just had to completely shut down and pivot. This was a very tough time for everyone.”
Galvez said via email that prior to the pandemic, the dancers would regularly have practices three times a week to prepare for upcoming performances. Once the pandemic began, however, the team had to be split into two groups that would occupy the dance room on different days. Other modifications included the reduction of in-person rehearsals to a maximum of an hour-and-a-half and the requirement that dancers wear their masks at all times.
Gia Battista, the Davis Shakespeare Festival artistic director, described how the Davis Shakespeare Festival typically performed two summer shows, one fall show and hosted a summer camp. When the pandemic began, they canceled the summer camp and in-person shows entirely.
Battista further explained how they transitioned to an online format with online youth workshops, an online Shakespeare reading group and a digital internship program. At the moment, they are currently focusing on the digital internship, in which interns are producing an online festival with three shows in December.
Galvez reflected on the tenacity of the dancers despite the new challenges they face.
“At the end of the day, these kids are still able to have this opportunity to dance, interact with their dance family, and know that they have all this support,” Galvez said via email. “We’re all growing and enduring these hardships together.”
Battista commented on the resourcefulness of the performing arts industry.
“There have been a lot of companies as well as individual artists who have been really resilient and innovative through this challenging time,” Battista said. “I’ve also really appreciated the resources that have come through from larger performing arts companies who have made their past shows available online for free, and I think this has been a really great resource for a lot of artists and educators.”
Galvez added a note of encouragement to other dancers still pursuing their passion during COVID-19.
“For all my dancers out there, keep creating and keep exploring,” Galvez said via email. “Your passion will encourage and inspire those around you.”
Battista provided one final comment on the future of arts workers and their place in the fight for social justice.
“This time has been a huge moment and a huge call for social change and racial justice,” Battista said. “As we work together as collaborators, I’ve seen a lot of companies and artists really taking this time to look inward, and I would just encourage that to continue.”
Written By: Jelena Lapuz — email@example.com