Adversity is an opportunity for creativity, because it forces one to dig deeper and discover something new about oneself.
~ Paul PT Wong
It goes without saying that 2020 has been, and will likely continue to be, a challenging year. We all have our stories to share of hardship, difficulty and heartbreak. And yet equally, we all have stories of resilience, inspiration and creativity.
Today I’d like to share some stories that point to the incredible resilience and creativity of our dance studio industry.
When the Government took steps to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic throughout Australia by essentially shutting down the whole of the dance industry, dance studio owners sparked into survival mode, got the creative juices flowing and took to converting their classes to online learning. For some this meant finding inventive ways to deliver their time-table as close to normal as possible, while for others it meant adapting to the new conditions and using this time to develop other valuable assets, such as inviting guest speakers to talk online with their students, to learn more about the history of dance and particular genres, or for those students more advanced, to research companies and their repertoire to better understand what companies and choreographers are seeking today.
More recently, syllabus and Eisteddfods are starting to consider ways to deliver exams and competitions while remaining respectful and cognisant of the need to physically distance. Some are experimenting with conducting online competitions, or using a local studio and only having the family and examiners in the room for solos’ etc.
And while this has all been inspiring and shows the deep resilience of our dance industry, it’s been while talking with studios about their end of year concerts that I’ve personally been most impressed with the amazing creativity and indefatigable spirit of our dance studio owners and teachers.
While some studios are considering not having an end of year concert, or perhaps putting it off till early next year, in recent weeks I’ve heard others who are devising intriguing ways to celebrate the year and continue to provide opportunities for their students to perform.
Here are four of my favourites:
Inspired by a recent concert given in the US by Australian musician, Keith Urban, I’ve heard of a studio that are going to deliver their end of year concert at a local Drive-In. This is an inspired choice as the Drive-In is already set up to deliver great sound, and ensures the audience remains physically distanced in their cars. Drinks and food can still be delivered during the performance and all that’s required is the setting up of a portable stage and potentially some lights – depending on the time of day. If a few studios collaborated and shared the space over a week then it would likely be very cost effective.
In the spirit of the Sydney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne, or the Domain in Sydney, others are planning on setting up outdoor stages and having the event as an afternoon picnic. Bring a blanket and glass of wine and watch the show. As Australia typically has beautiful weather in December this too is a wonderful idea, as it means people can remain spread out in their local family groups, yet still enjoy seeing their children perform.
Another studio I spoke with are simply going to run a spared down moveable concert at their studio, filtering each class and parents through slowly over a few days. They’re going to have a red carpet, champagne on arrival and stand-up nibbles available, before ushering each group through a studio or multiple studio set up to watch performances. This version may have the issue related to numbers of people in the building or classroom at a time, so will largely depend on what restrictions are in place come December.
Perhaps my personal favourite – if I had to pick – is from a studio that has started the process of choreographing solos and groups specifically for film in various indoor and outdoor settings and then is going to edit the pieces together to make an evening length film. They’re then hiring a local cinema over a few nights/days (probably whatever is most affordable) and inviting everyone to come and watch the film on the big screen. I can imagine the incredible delight of performers and their families, now seated together watching, themselves, their friends or their sons and daughters illuminated on the big screen for the first time.
What is clear is that, creativity is born in the face of adversity and challenge. Indeed, it’s our evolutionary advantage, and why humans are so successful at problem solving. And it’s what a life in the arts have the potential to teach us so powerfully and profoundly. For our children, our students of dance, witnessing the harnessing of creativity during this challenging time by their studio Principals, Directors and teachers is the best lesson any child could be gifted from this experience. And if that’s true, in hindsight, the year 2020 may go down as one of the most important and positively impactful years the generations alive today will ever know.