Indian classical dance team UNC Ek Taal was on track to perform in a national championship in the spring, until the competition was canceled due to the coronavirus. Now, the dancers are figuring out how to work as a team even when they’re miles apart.
Ek Taal is just one of UNC’s dance groups that had to cancel its spring performances and rethink its structure for the new semester. It’s an unusual audition season, as many groups are trading rehearsal rooms and performance schedules for Zoom meetings and livestreams.
For several dance teams, the focus this year will be on building technique and maintaining a sense of community even while off campus. Many are also planning video performances for the end of the semester instead of the usual live showcases.
Last year, Ek Taal competed in the national Origins Classical Dance Championship, but the team decided to take a hiatus from competing and performing this year due to coronavirus. Origins hasn’t announced its plans for this season yet.
“Our main priority is our members’ safety, as well as the safety of campus,” Anu Joy, co-captain of Ek Taal, said. “We’re completely fine sitting this season out if that means we’re not putting anybody in danger.”
Joy said the team will host practice and workshops via Zoom and share their projects on YouTube and social media — this virtual format will allow incoming and returning members alike to continue dancing.
“We want everybody to still engage in the dance form that they love from anywhere,” Joy said. “We don’t want to set any barriers to that.”
Sophie Swift, co-director of the hip-hop group UNC Kamikazi Dance Crew, said the team originally planned a mix of socially distanced rehearsals, Zoom rehearsals and choreography videos for this semester.
Moonlight Dance Crew also planned a hybrid semester — co-director Hayla Hurt said the team hosted auditions both on Zoom and in person, socially distanced and with masks.
However, after coronavirus cases spiked at UNC and classes moved online, both Swift and Hurt said their teams decided to go fully virtual. Swift said she is excited to see what creative solutions all the dance teams come up with in this new, virtual setting.
“Trying to predict what’s going to happen is nearly impossible — we’ve already tried to be pretty flexible, and I think we’re going to have to get a lot more flexible before the semester is over,” Swift said. “I think it’s just going to be a very interesting semester for all the dance teams.”
Many UNC dancers agreed that they’ll miss the social interactions and energy of dancing in person.
“I think one of the challenges for sure is going to be the fact that we’re not together in person,” Swift said. “It’s just going to be such a different feeling not having all those people in the same room with me.”
The new medium could also serve as a creative challenge. Joy said Ek Taal is working on a schedule that will give every team member the opportunity to choreograph routines throughout the semester.
Hurt also said she’s excited to see what her team choreographs this semester, as well as what livestream or video projects they create in lieu of live performances.
“I think being virtual might give people more freedom to be more creative,” Hurt said. “I’m definitely excited to see Moonlight release some stuff that we’ve never been able to do before.”
Chloe Winebarger, public relations chair of Blank Canvas, said she hopes the virtual platform will help the team reach a wider audience and the flexible schedule will open the team to more dancers.
“I’m excited that the dancers can continue to learn throughout this — I feel like we’ll still be progressing and challenging everybody,” Winebarger said. “It’s still going to be a great semester of dance.”
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