Department of Theatre and Dance moves past COVID-19 challenges

File Photo: Shreyas Saboo / The Daily Gamecock

When President Bob Caslen announced that classes would continue online after spring break, many important events were canceled, including the Ballet Stars of New York and Choreographer's Showcase. COVID-19 has caused a difficult transition for the dance program.

Ballet Stars of New York was initially scheduled for March 29 at the Koger Center for the Arts. It features principal dancers from the New York City Ballet and students from the USC Dance Company.

"We didn't cut stars at first. I don't remember the exact date, but we waited as long as we could," assistant professor of dance André Megerdichian said. "Even before school was canceled completely, there was still this hope that maybe we can get back into the studio." 

The Ballet Stars of New York is a big deal for the dance company. 

"This experience teaches our dancers the rigorousness of working with highly distinguished dancers and what it means to be a part of a professional ballet company," fourth-year dance education student Regan Baker said in an email interview. "The support and recognition across the University and even further into the community that this production brings in are important for the credibility of maintaining the arts in Columbia."

The Choreographer's Showcase was the final performance for the dance school. It is entirely produced by the students and gives them a chance to dance for faculty and guest artists.

"This is something that not all programs do, to give their students an opportunity to be this fully producing and supporting," Megerdichian said. 

Mari Cooper, a fourth-year dance performance and choreography student, was upset when she found out she would not be able to perform this year, but Cooper said she understood it was to keep everyone safe.

"It was pretty sad, but it was good to have each other to talk about everything with," Cooper said. "Obviously, we understood the circumstances surrounding it, but it was sad knowing that you won't get that opportunity back."

Baker said that she is concerned about returning to school in the fall as a dance student.

"Every semester, I complete a certain amount of practicum hours with a dance program in K-12 public schools surrounding the Columbia area," Baker said. "Will I be able to have in-person contact with students? Will the schools proceed with online learning? There are so many questions that make me ponder how I will be proceeding with my progress as a Senior Dance Education major." 

Megerdichiansaid that the professors in the department are working on figuring out how to keep dancers socially distant in the studio.

"We are measuring the studios, and we're figuring out how many we can fit in there," Megerdichiansaid. "I think we're going to have to stack our classes, so we won't be able to meet as fully, but we want to make sure that everybody is weekly in the studios practicing." 

Baker and Cooper share worries that their senior performances will have to be canceled due to COVID-19 in the upcoming fall and spring semesters. 

"I was hoping that everything would be normal for senior year, but as things progress and hearing that there might be a resurgence in the winter, it's pretty scary thinking that we could be potentially online in the spring as well and miss out on our last performance opportunities," Cooper said. 

While the future seems grim, the dancers still have hope.

"This could be the beginning of a technological movement in the dance world, and the possibilities are endless if we are able to move past the devastation and towards determination," Baker said.


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