Earlier this year in March, SUNY Brockport like other schools went into an immediate lockdown due to The COVID-19 pandemic. The dance program at SUNY Brockport was great affected by this change. Students were told vacate school grounds for the remainder of the semester. Dance classes, like many others shifted to an online curriculum.
For Dance majors this was a difficult adjustment. Carol Garwood, 22, a senior during the lockdown, had to adjust to virtual learning and it put damper on her senior year.
“I was kind of in disbelief. I got into the dance department a little bit later than everybody else, so I didn’t get to do as many performances as everybody else. To get in to these performances you have to audition and I auditioned and got into a few. This was my first semester really being part of more than just Sankofa, which is a class. I was really excited but then I couldn’t do it. So that was kind of a bummer,” Garwood said.
The Dance Program is known for putting on wonderful shows with pieces created by the students. However due to the pandemic the shows were put on hold. This in turn made professors worried for their students and how they would adjust to the sudden change in the semester. One of these professors being Mariah Maloney, an Associate Professor in the Dance program.
“I was concerned about how our students were going to do because everything was ending as they know it. I was really concerned about things like their special projects, whether it was to present at Scholars day or to present in a concert. We have a concert called Dance Strasser and we had an incredible selection of work ready to go and that concert disappeared with the Pandemic,” says Maloney.
Moving into the fall semester things were a bit more structured. Classes were smaller but still online for the most part. Hartwell, where the dance studios are located, is structured now so that students can practice social distancing while still being able to attend in person classes.
Students at SUNY Brockport are experiencing the restructuring of the new semester this fall. SUNY Brockport senior, Kaitlin Hill, 21 is one of the students going through all the changes that come with taking classes at home.
“My dance classes this semester are all virtual. There are so many factors that go into learning movement that get disrupted by a virtual format. The camera angle makes it almost impossible to see my professors whole bodies. The internet connection makes the music lag,” Hill says.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are not just physical but emotional as well. Virtual learning is a constant reminder of what “used to be”. Hill feels nostalgic for her old dance classes and the people in them.
“There was a very communal environment in our classes, we were always pushing ourselves to do better and taking corrections from our professors and supporting each other by cheering each other on, the energy from the other dancers just isn’t there through a computer screen.”
Transitioning from in person learning to virtual learning has been difficult. Although a new obstacle virtual learning has had its perks throughout the semester. Maloney explains the new opportunities that come with learning.
“One of the greatest joys is being in class together getting to ask questions and brain storm. So giving them a chance to be in the breakout rooms so that they can see each other and have a little privacy. Another perk I would add is, we can also now have access to leaders, public speakers, artists because they can zoom in for an hour. As much as we’re losing access we have a lot of access coming in, in ways that don’t exist when you have to Book a hotel room and take a flight,” Maloney says.
As the semester progresses students try to make the best of the cards they have been dealt. COVID-19 has brought on a new lifestyle that is a learning curve for everyone. So students have tried to enjoy it as much as they can. Hill has been able to find the small joys in virtual learning.
“ if there was one thing I enjoy about online classes it would be that I have been dancing with my hair down for the first time and that has been quite freeing. In the Traditional studio setting I would have never danced with my hair downBut since I’m dancing in my kitchen it doesn’t matter if my hair is in my face or if I’m wearing sweatpants,” says Hill.
Currently SUNY Brockport is transitioning to a completely online curriculum again due to students going home for the Thanksgiving break. As the transition begins there is less worry in the air because students have proven themselves to be strong individuals. The pandemic did not allow for performances and concerts. Instead the dance program pulled other resources to create a film.
“Our fall student choreographed concert is a series of films. So they are not in the theater doing tech rehearsal, and having all that camaraderie and having a live audience. They learned how to make films they are really great they kind of self taught themselves. We didn’t have a film course, We met with them for advising twice and they made these films. I have to say I’m impressed how at resilient they’ve been,” says Maloney.
Back in March students at SUNY Brockport had to adapt to the sudden stop in the spring semester. The Dance Program adapted to this change and so have the students. As difficult as the year has been the resilience of the students can be expected for the upcoming spring semester.
Here is a link to the dance event calendar: