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UNC dance groups find ways to recognize their work despite canceled performances


Members of Blank Canvas, a student dance group, sit in Memorial Hall's auditorium for a past performance. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Oliver.

The dance careers of UNC seniors in groups like Blank Canvas, Carolina Tap Ensemble and Carolina Style Dance Company ended suddenly, as their spring performances were canceled due to COVID-19. 

Now, group members are leaning on each for support and looking for ways to recognize all their work this semester. 

Blank Canvas’ officers were able to put together a video of their final show using footage taken by choreographers during rehearsals. The video, entitled “The Show We Never Got to See,” was posted on YouTube and shared on social media. 

Tiffany Oliver, Blank Canvas’ public relations chair, surprised the group with the video project to uplift the team after they learned that their show was canceled. 

“Every single one of us were talking to each other and we were all crying,” Oliver said. “We were devastated. And the seniors were heartbroken. And I didn't think that was how any of our chapters at UNC or how the semester should've ended for any of us.”

Oliver and her fellow officers came up with the idea to create the video using clips provided by the choreographers of the dances. 

“The entire officer team really wanted to find a way and thought it was important that we somehow recognize everyone’s hard work,” Oliver said.

Oliver said that it was especially important to make a video for the seniors in order to give them something to remember their last year with Blank Canvas. 

Oliver kept most of the company in the dark about the video until it was released. Even Blank Canvas’ President Jessica Martinson knew very little about the project. 

“One thing that is a huge tradition for Blank Canvas is that right before we all go on stage we have our president, Jessica, do a speech for all of us downstairs in our dressing room at Memorial Hall,” Oliver said.

For the video, Oliver maintained this tradition by having Martinson record a pre-show speech and countdown to the team’s chant.

The final video was over an hour and included about 25 dances, Martinson’s speech and senior recognitions.

“I think it just showed how much joy and passion everyone has in the company and how big of an impact it has on everyone’s lives,” Martinson said. “It was just very sweet that I got to be a part of a company that is so close loving like that for the last four years.”

Kalina Mackay, the president of Carolina Tap Ensemble, said the team considered holding a virtual show over live stream, but ultimately decided it was not possible. 

“We can’t really do virtual tapping because we can’t all tap in our homes,” Mackay said. “We don’t have the equipment. So we’re just kind of being there for emotional support.” 

Mackay said C-Tap is collecting videos from dancers and looking for ways to recognize the group’s hard work.

Senior Stephanie Schenberger, president of Carolina Style Dance Company, said that the cancellations are particularly difficult for seniors. Schenberger said that a virtual show would be difficult because most of the dancers are no longer in the Chapel Hill area.  

“This was supposed to be our last performance and our last hoorah of dancing, since most of us have danced since elementary or even younger than that,” Schenberger said.

Emma Wolitzky, the junior officer at Carolina Vibe, said that her dance group has been holding socials over Zoom during the team’s usual practice time to support one another. 

“We’re really close,” Wolitzky said. “It’s going to be really hard to not be able to see them for the rest of the semester and dance with them.”

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