Back in June of last year, I became curious about how the limitations COVID placed on dance might result in new and innovative art. On our blog, I asked a question about the potential value of these limitations:
“In 2020, where will dance take us?”
It was early yet to know. Not only was I writing during the first (hellish) months of the pandemic, my blog post went up before Digital Dance Project had streamed our first production. Since then, we’ve put up works by 13 different artists and sold 200+ tickets to digital dance screenings and audience Q&As. In that same time, an immeasurable number of things have happened in the dance community and in the world at large.
What happened: The rest of 2020 in dance
Although COVID restrictions forced some performing arts companies to postpone their seasons or even to close entirely, many organizations–particularly smaller ones–were able to duck and weave through constantly changing regulations as 2020 wore on.
Their solutions were as diverse as they were creative: performing outdoors while the weather permitted, live-streaming from empty theaters, strategically casting roommates and couples in partnering roles, and even staging new works about the 1918 influenza epidemic so that masks became a relevant aspect of costuming.
More exciting still was the pivot we saw brick-and-mortar companies make toward dance works intended for video. Dance film, always more of a niche interest, became a hot topic! Here at Digital Dance Project, where dance for the screen is a central part of our mission, we could not be prouder of many of our favorite companies for taking this step forward.
Now it’s 2021.
A return to normalcy may be on the (distant) horizon, but there’s no denying that dance in 2020 widened our understanding of everything our industry could be. As we look ahead to 2021, I wanted to ask the question again: “Where is dance taking us?“
This time, I posed it to three of Digital Dance Project’s choreographers.
“2020 has certainly made us more creative. As a choreographer, I’ve had to start looking at the framing of performance in a new way. It’s been a real challenge and one that ultimately will make my work richer.
I think dance will become more accessible as we move into 2021. Because audiences can more easily watch, and because time feels different now, my hope is that dance will reach a much wider audience.”
“I think in 2021 all the survival strategies dance and theatre have implemented will continue to be important in keeping organizations financially afloat and individual artists creating.
I’m interested to see companies move beyond one-off dance films and explore how to make more personal connections between artists and audiences. Mailing physical perks? Behind-the-scenes access? Longer-term projects?
As restrictions are (hopefully) lifted, I’m also curious to see how we will make the transition back to proscenium productions. How might shows with very small audience groups pave the way for fuller houses?”
“I think that dance will take dancers and choreographers to new levels of honesty and intention in 2021.
It seems as though 2020 taught us to honor resilience and equity. I believe to continue developing those values we need to look inside ourselves–check our own perspectives, and how we initiate both movements and topics, so that we may develop lexicons that truly say what we mean.
It seems like dancers have been dancing around true embodied expression, afraid to allow dance to venture too far, as though we won’t recognize the final product.
Maybe 2021 is an invitation–to a more embodied presence, to truth, to say what we really mean, and to be satisfied with knowing that there will never be a finished product.”
We recognize the many challenges ahead for dance as artists adapt to their circumstances, but we cannot ignore the many opportunities for innovation. When it comes to dance in 2021, where do you think we can go?