It’s been seven months since the first pandemic shutdown in my area. Many sectors of society have reopened, some with restrictions. I continue to work from home and have all of my groceries delivered. Still, my dance lessons and physical therapy appointments bring me out of my apartment complex on a regular basis, so I’m not a complete hermit. Life moves forward.
This past week, I cancelled my regular weekly dance lesson. Teacher had taken a group of students to a local competition the weekend before. I decided to err on the side of caution and wait the approximate two weeks before I came in contact with anyone who attended.
If social media posts are any indication, the competition was run quite safely. Everyone wore masks on and off the dance floor, tables were spaced out, etc. Safety measures against the new coronavirus have ranged from thorough to non-existent at pandemic-era ballroom events. The same week as this local competition was taking place, I saw posts of another event where no one was wearing a mask.
It’s no surprise that the ballroom world seems as divided on safety issues like masks and social distancing as the rest of the world (or maybe it’s just this country). It’s difficult enough to take precautions that account for all of the risk factors that can lead to a person becoming infected. Factoring in people who refuse to take precautions makes things even more complicated. And frustrating – imagine taking the time to ensure you’ll stay dry in a rainstorm (raincoat, boots, umbrella, etc.) and the minute you step outside, a friend runs up to you soaking wet and gives you a big hug. So much for staying dry.
It’s the division that makes me want to stay away from everyone, more than the virus. If we all agreed to follow the same procedures, it’d be a lot easier to navigate the remaining risks. But we haven’t all agreed. Knowing that there have already been outbreaks at other competitions and dance studios, I have to balance my risk of exposure with my desire to dance.
Regarding the recent local competition, my risk of exposure is obviously less because I wasn’t physically there. Considering I only take one lesson a week right now, skipping a week to reduce my risk even further didn’t feel like a big sacrifice.
A little more disappointing was the thought of missing the first rehearsal of the group showcase number. Oh by the way, I’m doing another virtual showcase. I signed up for this group number as a step toward easing my way back into bigger dance events, like a competition next year. The pandemic has me out of practice with managing my social anxiety. Still, the rehearsal was scheduled only a week after the competition and everyone in the group except me had attended. So I opted to tune in via Zoom. It wasn’t ideal but better than nothing and again, it felt worth the sacrifice. I’ll handle my social anxiety next time.
Luckily, other scheduling conflicts led to the first rehearsal being postponed until next weekend! So it turns out I will get to attend in person.
As other competitions proceed as planned, while areas report rising case numbers, I can’t help but think about how we could be divided even further. Some dancers, finding the risk of attending events with or without masks acceptable, will resume full dance journeys and find emotional and mental relief in some semblance of “normal.” Others who have underlying health conditions or simply don’t find the risk of attending events acceptable may find their dance journeys constantly interrupted by two-week break periods following their teacher’s attendance at another event.
Of course, one could argue that it’s a person’s choice if they want to cancel dance lessons until two weeks after their teacher returns from an event. Just like it’s a person’s choice to attend the event. Everyone is comfortable with a different level of risk and this comfort level plays a major role in determining our behavior.
The tug-of-war struggle happening now with this pandemic is your comfort level affects you and the people around you.
When you weigh the risks and decide whether or not to invest in a certain stock or to go skydiving, that decision only directly affects you. However, when it comes to infectious diseases like COVID-19, when you weigh the risks and decide you don’t need to wear a mask or keep your distance from others, that decision can directly affect others.
It’s an extremely complicated situation that we find ourselves in, and people don’t like complicated. Just like having too many choices of ice cream flavors, having too many risk factors to consider can become overwhelming to the point that people start disregarding them to make it easier to process the information and act. The division starts as some people disregard more than others, or prioritize different factors.
The dance competitions are a perfect example: do you prioritize your physical health by not going to the competition and waiting two weeks to take your next dance lesson, or do you prioritize your mental and emotional health by attending the competition and giving yourself the joy of getting to perform again?
Can a balance be found where your physical, mental and emotional needs are all met?
I’m exploring this question as I wait to return to the studio. I believe the answer lies in my integration of dance life and regular life, and in seeking a greater purpose in dance than the next competitive event. I’ll admit to feeling some FOMO as I saw the social media posts of Teacher and his students dancing at last week’s comp. I miss being out there! At the same time, one event didn’t feel worth the risk to me.
Whether you’re on my level or think I’m being overcautious, I hope everyone can agree that mutual respect and consideration are most needed right now. How can we all move forward on our dance journeys, instead of some moving forward at the sacrifice of others?
There is no easy answer, but perhaps by pondering this question, you’ll think of one little thing you can do today to help a fellow dancer.
As for me, I offer this blog as inspiration and encouragement to all of you. Dance journeys can be filled by more than just dance competitions, and as always, I will continue to share my thoughts, discoveries and experiences as I explore the possibilities.
I’m also offering a discount on Solo Practice Guide products with the code “freshstart” through the end of October! Just because you’re out of the studio for two weeks doesn’t mean you can’t work on your dancing. Plus, it’s always fun when you can impress your teacher with your progress when you haven’t seen them in awhile. 😉
Happy and healthy dancing!