As we reach the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., I know many dancers have one question on their mind: Is my dance journey over?
Some have been extremely lucky and privileged to be able to continue dancing and even compete through this pandemic. They experienced a couple months’ break in their dance schedule, which used to seem like a lot but in our current reality, hardly anything. I’ve been lucky to be able to take one in-person private lesson almost every week since July. I even got to perform in a virtual showcase.
Others have not danced in a year or longer. No lessons, no showcases, no competitions. Through an extremely stressful period of our lives, they have lost their primary source of mental and emotional relief. And after a year, they can’t help but wonder – is this it? Am I done dancing?
Pandemics don’t last forever. The dance world and greater performing arts world are hurting right now, but they will recover. Things won’t go back to the way they were; this experience has permanently changed us. But things will move forward into a brighter future.
If you’re wondering what you’re supposed to do in the meantime, you’re not alone. It sucks to not be able to dance. It sucks that your studio is closed while others are open. It sucks to see social media posts of dancers at competitions while you’re isolating for the sake of your or others’ health. It. Sucks. For better or worse though, Life moves on.
While this pandemic has affected everyone, it has not affected everyone in the same way. Socio-economic status has played a huge role. In addition, the U.S. has been incredibly inconsistent in how it has handled the response to the pandemic. In some areas, people are being told to stay home except for essential tasks. In other areas, in-person dance competitions are crowded with masked and unmasked dancers. The whole situation feels unfair.
While I don’t know when we’ll be able to say this pandemic is officially over, I know we’re making progress toward that end. Vaccines are rolling out. Every day, we’re learning more about this particular coronavirus, even as it tries to trip us up with new variants. That progress means it’s not time to give up. Yes, you may be on a forced pause right now. And it legitimately sucks. Seeing others freely dancing makes it suck more. It may make you feel like you’re being left behind. It’s still not time to give up.
A couple weeks ago, I shared on the blog one of the questions I posed in the recent Reset Your Dance Journey challenge: If you couldn’t ballroom dance, how would you move your dance journey forward?
This question is the one I encourage you to reflect on and work to definitively answer if you find yourself in a place where you feel like your dance journey has come to an end due to the pandemic. Assuming of course that you want to continue on your dance journey. It is entirely possible that the pandemic has triggered a shift in your life such that dance does not need to play such a big role. Perhaps you’ve discovered a different way to express yourself creatively that fulfills you as much or more than dance did.
If you aren’t ready to give up dance, then take on this challenge. How can you incorporate dance into your life while you’re away from your usual dance homes like the studio or a competition floor?
There are the obvious options like virtual ballroom group classes or workshops. You may even have the option of virtual private lessons. If you’re burdened by the thought that your dance journey is over though, I’m guessing you’ve already considered or tried these options and they didn’t provide what you need.
Unfortunately, you’re not going to find an exact replacement for what you used to have with ballroom dancing. Which is a depressing thought and makes you wonder why you’re bothering to hold onto any hope; it just makes the whole situation more painful. Wouldn’t it be better to just give up?
Hang in there with me.
What you need is something to just get you through the current reality. Think of it as a splint for your injured limb until you can hike out of the wilderness and get proper medical care. Ballroom is what normally gives you a mental and emotional break from your daily grind and other Life stressors, but since that’s not available, you need to find something else that will provide a similar break, even if it’s doesn’t have quite the same effect.
I’ve shared how I’ve shifted my focus to my physical health and have enrolled in a fitness program that is helping me with mobility and functional strength. I’ve gone back to technique basics by attending my studio’s virtual ballet barre classes. To take care of my mental and emotional health, I’ve been rewatching favorite movies, playing with my dogs, and publishing more articles. I’ve also been getting a kick out of themed dance fitness videos on YouTube. Themes like the 80s or 90s have been perfect for a fun dance escape. I have a new appreciation for singers who also dance during their performances. I think I got through one verse of Holding Out for a Hero during an 80s dance fitness video before I was too out of breath to sing.
If you feel like your dance journey might be over, I think the “fun dance escape” is what you should focus on. Yes, there are a ton of ways to keep up your dance training (and I have tools that will help!), but if the day you dance with a partner again feels too far away to even hope for, training is not what you need right now. What you need as a dancer right now is joy. The kind of joy that comes from belting out one of your favorite 80s songs in your living room while busting out a couple easy dance moves (at least until you run out of breath). It’s the kind of joy that you feel when something makes you laugh so hard you cry. It’s that feeling when you get pulled into a movie or TV series and you scare your dogs when you cheer out loud when the main character finally reaches success (just me?).
Ballroom dance brings you tremendous joy. But if it’s not available right now, you need to find something else to take its place, at least temporarily. It won’t be the same, but at least you’ll be smiling.