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Saturday November 26th

Carolina Performing Arts explores art during the pandemic with its "Feedback" program

<p>Memorial Hall, home to Carolina Performing Arts, pictured here on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.</p>
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Memorial Hall, home to Carolina Performing Arts, pictured here on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.

Members of the local arts community tuned in last week for a class on movement and communication — focusing on how the pandemic impacted the choreography of daily life and more. 

This class was part of a new program called "Feedback," offered by Carolina Performing Arts. Feedback is a collection of free online classes that aims to explore how the arts are shifting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Last week’s class was taught by UNC American Studies professor Michelle Robinson and choreographer Annie-B Parson. Their class consisted of questions and discussion. Parson presented a piece that she wrote about the physical distance created by COVID-19, and discussed the “hand dancing” that occurs when one writes a letter and mails it. 

Robinson and Parson tried to recreate a true classroom environment by encouraging participants to use the chat feature. 

“I think it's one of the things that we really miss right now is tertiary conversation,” Robinson said. “So, we're trying to recreate some of that experience of being with folks.” 

UNC professors have been working in conjunction with CPA artists to explore how live performance has changed due to the restrictions set forth given the COVID-19 pandemic. The Feedback Institute is offering two courses this semester: Liveness and Arts Economies.

Amanda Graham, associate director of engagement at CPA and creator of "Feedback," came up with the idea when she was brainstorming how to connect with the community. 

“I was looking for a way to bring the experience of having our CPA classroom home to people,” Graham said. “Which is something we've never done before.”

Co-curator and Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Lauren DiGiulio said they were interested in bringing CPA, UNC faculty and the public closer together — beyond just an artist’s visit in the classroom.

Graham and DiGiulio matched faculty members and artists based on their personalities and methods. 

“I think that that approach has really proved fruitful,” DiGiulio said. “The artists and faculty members have really been able to dialogue and find through their conversation something that they're both interested in doing.”

Graham said the participants in the program are a diverse group in terms of age, gender, race and experience with the arts. 

“These people might not normally be at the same performance together,” Graham said. “Some might be interested in classical music, and others are interested in avant-garde dance. But here, they are in the same room together.”

The Liveness course, offered weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, began Oct. 6 and will finish on Oct. 22. Arts Economies will begin on Oct. 29 and will finish on Nov. 19. 

Liveness explores the changes in how people relate to one another through performance in the absence of normal performances. 

“Right now, as we know, our theaters are dark,” Graham said. “So, we don't relate to each other in the same way that we used to. That might be a very obvious statement, but it's something that we're interrogating.”

Arts Economies will explore the ways in which artists can be supported. 

“The fault lines are becoming clear,” Graham said. “We need to find new ways to support our arts infrastructure, nationally and beyond.”

The classes have been recorded and will be released online to the general public in December. 

CPA plans to continue "Feedback" next semester, this time with a program called "Audience Advocates." Members of the public will be invited to apply to work with CPA artists who have works in progress and offer them feedback. 

“Those participants, of course, will be invited to join us to see all of their conversation come to fruition,” Graham said.

DiGiulio said she hopes that the program will allow people to connect in a sustained way. 

“To feel connected to each other in this moment where we can't be together physically, to have to be in like a digital space with these amazing artists and with each other, has felt really beautifully intimate,” DiGiulio said. 

As for Robinson, she said the class she led with Parson went well. 

“We couldn’t have imagined how exciting and how much energy there would be among the participants,” Robinson said. “There were all these simultaneous dialogues that were tangential and intersecting, and digressing. So, it was really fun.”

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