As the Capital Region prepares for possible second lockdown, residents, including SUNY Albany students, are scrambling to find new ways to enjoy their hobbies by safely by wearing masks and socially distancing from others. That’s hard to do when you dance. So, The SUNY Albany hip hop dance team, Under Construction, has been trying to figure out new ways to keep SUNY Albany students involved with the dance team during the pandemic. The plan – go virtual. Under Construction’s first virtual performance was recently released on Instagram and the group had to change a lot of their normal practices to keep dancing.
JR Payne, a second semester member of Under Construction, had been a part of the team for a short time before COVID-19 changed almost everything.
“We have to wear masks when we dance, undergo regular screenings and temperature checks, have virtual performances, and in those performances we have to be around six feet apart.” Payne went on to add, “Most practices are no longer mandatory, because we do not want anyone feeling uncomfortable being around other people,”
Having fewer mandatory practices has made it easier for students worried that they will contract COVID-19 or give it to a loved one. Fewer practices also let the dancers keep their practice space, and stay safe so they can continue to perform in person, even if it is for less people.
“Although we still have some dance moves that may require more than one person to be performed, they are usually performed very quickly and the dancers are separated from one another shortly after whatever dance move required them to minimize their social distance practices,” Payne explained.
Not only has Under Construction had to make changes as a result of state mandates, they have also had to comply with SUNY Albany’s mandates that required policy changes for how the group has to be run.
“For Under Construction, a lot more policy was put into place because of COVID. For example, creating a safety plan in order to hold in-person practices,” said Daquez Green, Vice President of Under Construction.
“Luckily,” says Payne, “Under Construction has a lot of members who are willing to take the chance to make the dream work.”
Kayla Green, a second semester Under Construction dancer explained that, “Many other dancers and dance classes have also moved to using Zoom as a way to teach dance to others, making it possible to reach thousands of people at once.”
Additionally, the team created a TikTok account where they are able to post short dance performances to social media without needing the entire team to gather for the videos.
“We post TikToks on our page as a way to still be active and it’s a good way to involve all our members, whether they’re on campus or not.” explained Green.
For Halloween, the dance team created a Friday the 13th/Halloween themed dance video. This Under Construction Instagram includes a video trailer that gives a preview of the video the group made. Although the team did not wear masks during the filming of the performance most of the film takes place in an open-air area with the performers socially distancing from one another.
Many of the members of the team have never filmed a dance performance, so learning to film, as well as to dance, has been a new experience. Filming the Halloween themed dance video was Payne’s first video shoot.
“Honestly, the anticipation, release and support made me elated.” said Payne.
Not only was the music video a great way for the group to demonstrate what they are still capable of doing despite the pandemic, the video also showed potential new members how much they can still do with dance, despite COVID-19.
“We definitely piqued some interest and gained tryout/new members because of it,” said Payne explaining some of the outcomes from the recent video.
As the COVID-19 numbers go up and the region begins to close down, it is inspiring to know that one group of SUNY Albany students, the Under Construction Dance Team, has figured out how to adapt. By learning to dance virtually, they have picked up a new skill – videography- which has led to new ways to create and share these expressions with others.