Dancing in Place

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Like so many other fields, our world of dance has gone virtual…for now!

It took a week after the Shelter in Place was mandated for Marin Ballet’s leadership and dedicated faculty to create a new comprehensive program for each level of our school. We are happy to say that our virtual program these past weeks has reflected Marin Ballet’s steadfast commitment to serving our community and offering the highest level of dance training.

Dancers are some of the most committed, tenacious, and resilient humans. Adjusting, adapting, and moving forward are woven into the daily practice in the studio. This sheltering in place has proven to be an extension of just that.

Zoom is certainly a valued platform, and it has given us the capability of keeping our community connected and engaged. But, there are some basic nuances that we’ve had to navigate that don’t exist in our studio life. Zoom is designed for meetings where speaking is the primary way of communicating. With the addition of music, which is part of our daily classes, there is a competition on the platform between the voice of the teacher and the accompanying music. This has been something the teachers have had to negotiate. In addition, the quality of video and sound are dependent on a number of factors, including internet connection. What the teachers often see when looking into the Zoom room is that, for the most part, every student is off the music by a beat or two, sometimes more! Can you imagine! The instructors have obviously had to adopt a certain level of acceptance, and the students, in turn, have had to be even more self-disciplined with their musicality.

In the studio, with real life person-to-person connection, teachers instinctively have the ability to “read the room” as a way of guiding the class and assessing what’s most needed. It’s a very different process in the virtual world and it took a moment to figure it out. One cool thing is that now teachers get to see the entire class of students without having to turn their heads!

Using hands-on guidance is one tool instructors often rely upon in the studio. Our teachers now have to be even more articulate and demonstrative when offering corrections and getting a point across. It requires more of an effort to get the message through the screen and into the space of the students’ homes. Some teachers have even had the comical impulse to touch the screen in an effort to fix the line of a foot, or position of the head, only to catch themselves.  LOL!

We’re humbled and inspired by all the ways our students have found to create their in-home studio spaces. For now, the studio barres have been replaced with dressers, bed posts, walls, railings, counter tops, and a medley of anchors. We see cats slink across the screen, dogs that sit eagerly at a dancer’s feet, or sometimes a family member walking through the space. It’s a fascinating and funny interplay of personal lives and focused training.

We love this photo of one of our Level 9 seniors Suzanne Shilstone, taking one of her last few MB classes on her deck. It’s as though she’s dancing for the trees! In the studio, we often coach the students to be more expansive in their dancing and to use their imagination to push beyond the walls.  Now more than ever, in our more confined spaces, the imagination has to be engaged just as much as the body. Taking class outside on the deck is one way to experience not only expansion but also a connection to nature and other elements of which we’re all a part.

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Even renowned ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn and her partner, Frederick Ashton, were photographed taking a barre on the deck of a ship!

We’re proud of all our students, and grateful to their supportive families for helping to make this continued training possible.

And speaking of families…. We had our first Be Social: Rumba in Place class! If you’ve ever wanted to join one of these classes and haven’t been able to manage it or had the courage to join… now is your chance!! These classes can be a family affair, a date night, or a solo adventure. You can even dance with family members in another state, or country! The participants of these classes are diverse, enthusiastic, and fun! Stay tuned for our next class on our Be Social: page. 

They say to dance like nobody is watching. I think that implies that we are afraid and ashamed to dance in front of the people. I say dance like everybody is watching, your ancestors, your family. Dance for those who are hurting, those who can’t dance, those who lost loved ones and those who suffer injustices throughout the world. Let every step be a prayer for humanity! Most all, dance for the Creator, who breathed into your soul so you may celebrate this gift of life.”

By Christian Parrish Takes the Gun (Native American hip hop artist)

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