Dancing Through Difficulty

Dance Teams During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Robyn Joseffer

Hillary’s Dance Company at a competition

All sports have had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic in unique ways. Dance competitions are a way for dancers to show off skills they have learned and to connect with other companies. This year, however, contact between dance companies has been and will be limited during competitions. Maya Srinivasan, who graduated from Washington-Liberty in 2020, was dance team captain for seven years and has enjoyed every competing experience she had. 

“The [competitions]  were so much fun,” Srinivasan said. “There are a lot of misconceptions about dance competitions, but all the ones I’ve been to have been super chill and supportive. There were usually ten plus studios competing so it would be pretty crowded, but performing was always a lot of fun.”

Srinivasan joined Hillary’s Dance Company (HDC) in 2007, competed for HDC from 2013 to 2020, was a HDC dance captain from 2016-2020 and is an HDC instructor this year. 

“I love [being an instructor]!” Srinivasan said. “My favorite part is being able to choreograph the dances on my own. I’ve formed amazing relationships with my students throughout this year.”

At HDC, temperatures are taken before a dancer enters the studio, and masks are required. Stickers are on the floor to promote social distancing during classes. When a dancer is not dancing, they are sitting spread out from everyone. This is the only time when they can take off their mask to breathe or drink water. 

“[Dance classes] actually don’t feel too different,” Srinivasan said. “It’s just harder to practice partner work because we can’t touch each other. Other than that, everything feels pretty much the same.”

Even with restrictions, dance companies are hard at work, so they can do their best in competitions.

“The month before our first competition of the year was always very intense. We would run our dances multiple times a day to try and perfect them,” Srinivasan said. “It was a great way to bond with my teammates, though.”

Regulations for COVID-19 restrictions are different for every competition, but there are some commonalities.

“Everyone will be required to wear a mask when they are not on stage. However, when performing, masks aren’t required,” Srinivasan said. “You’re supposed to leave [masks] right offstage, so you have access to them right after you’re done performing. Each team will have a separate locker room to promote social distancing.”

Hillary’s Dance Company competed at Starpower, a dance competition, on the morning of Sunday, May 2. 

“For the first competition, [Starpower], I was in five [dances], and in the second competition, [Showstoppers], I’m going to be in three [dances],” sophomore Sophie Walther  said. “I did a wide variety of dances for this first competition that I’ve already done; I did ballet, hip hop, contemporary and jazz. While it was tiring, I think my favorite was hip hop; I enjoy it a lot and I had fun doing it.”

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes had to be made to how competitions were usually run. 

“I’ve done one other year [of competing] and last year the [competitions] got canceled,” Walther said. “The one year I did [dance competitions], we had a lot of time to warm up and there were a bunch of people. It was a little more relaxed because we could go through our dances before going on. This year it was super fast-paced, and just all at once.”

Besides the format of the competition, there were also changes made to the dressing room and performing stage.

“[The stage] was on a huge field — that was also a thing that was kind of different,” Walther said. “The last competition I went to was in a school. We had a black room and we all changed together. The stage was in the middle of the field and we had to run across the field to get to places.” Walther said. “My mom said she would look to the side and see just sprinting.”

Instead of multiple companies at the competition at the same time, the companies were blocked apart from each other. All of the dances for Hillary’s Dance Company were performed within a slot of time back to-back.

“The most stressful part was, since it was very time restricted, that we were doing it all at once,” Walther said. “Just making sure you were in the right place at the right time, and changing and being prepared for getting on stage.”

The school also has a dance team that competes like other dance companies. They did not compete this year due to COVID-19. 

“The dance team has competed in the past [in] various local competitions in the Northern Virginia area,” Ghita Haronni, longtime coach of the cheer team as well as a former W-L cheerleader, dancer and dance coach for her first time this year, said. “The goal for the next season is to have them compete — we are still looking into what competitions will be there this upcoming season. It is always a goal of ours to compete.”

Even without competing and all the changes being made to the dance team, they still performed. The dance team would perform during half-time at football games during the football season. They performed at a few varsity games and finished their last performance at the last JV home football game.

“That was really fun, to be able to showcase what they were working on this entire season. So, in each performance, they would do new songs with choreography. So, each performance built on the other one, or it was completely different,” Haronni said. “That was really cool to kind of see them turn things around pretty quickly and be able to put out a good product.”

Much like a dance company, the school dance team has a range of dance styles they include in their dances.

“We did really a little bit of everything, hip hop [and] pop with a little bit of lyrical influence in there,” Haronni said. “Every student was able to choreograph pieces of the routines that we performed, so everyone’s touch was in there. That was really fun to see and watch them all working together and putting out something together and then be proud of it.” 

The school dance team had COVID-19 restrictions similar to HDC’s restrictions. Both companies had mask rules, temperatures taken when arriving and social distancing.

“We did a combination of in-person and virtual practices,” Haronni said. “As far as the practices themselves, nothing was different, other than obviously maintaining that social distance.”

Similar to Srinivasan, Haronni thought that not much about dance has changed.

“Dancing allows for us to easily implement the protocols, like we don’t have to always be close to one another, so we were always six feet apart. I think we were able to do a lot of the same stuff we would traditionally do,” Haronni said. “We did avoid any sort of partner things or anything where the students would have to get too close to one another — that was one thing that we definitely kept in mind.”

Haronni and other dancers are grateful that there could even be a dance season this year.

“In the environment that we’re in, we were really blessed with the privilege to be able to have this season. I think all of the students on the team acknowledged that and did their best at every practice,” Haronni said. “They were excited to perform and that was enjoyable for me to see, especially as coaching the first year. They’re always so excited and we had a good group of students, so that made the season.”

Although dance is currently different from how it was before, it is still a fun activity for people to express themselves. Dance is a way to meet new friends and develop long-lasting relationships.

“Dance has completely changed my life,” Srinivasan said. “So if anyone is thinking about joining a dance company, go for it!”