Ohio University

A COVID Experiment: School of Dance puts on virtual dance concert

Person dancing underwater.
2020 alumna Brittany Hawthorne participated in the Fall Dance Concert, "A COVID Experiment." These photos illustrate Hawthorne’s solo performance, "The Chronicles of the Fish Diaries." Photo by Rich-Joseph Facun.

Dancers are inventive and adaptable. Dancers know how to make it work, despite challenges. Dancers at Ohio University knew that even during a pandemic—with so much uncertainty and restriction—there are still opportunities to be creative. 

Last month, after many months of preparation, The Movement Organization and OHIO’s School of Dance presented its 2020 Fall Dance Concert, “A COVID Experiment.” It was exactly what it sounds like—experimenting with how to present a meaningful, enjoyable dance concert while following COVID protocol. 

“That’s a big challenge in and of itself, but it was also tricky because the rules about what is allowed and what is not are constantly changing,” said Zoe Meadows, vice president and treasurer of The Movement Organization. “We really had to stay flexible and adaptable.” 

All of the performers in the concert were Class of 2020 alumnae who didn’t get a normal graduation because of the coronavirus pandemic. Meadows, who worked backstage and was one of the organizers of the concert, said watching them perform brought a sense of closure.

“The most enjoyable part was being able to see and celebrate the class of 2020,” she explained. “When we moved to online classes in the spring last semester, we didn't get the chance to say goodbye to the graduating class. We began planning the concert way back in May and worked on it until September.” 

There was a lot that went into the live-streamed concert. The performers had to rehearse via Zoom; Meadows had to apply for funding from the Student Action Council; there were production meetings and COVID safety protocol meetings; and just like a normal concert, there was in-person lighting and production preparation for a few days before the performance.
 

Person dancing underwater.
2020 alumna Brittany Hawthorne participated in the Fall Dance Concert, "A COVID Experiment." These photos illustrate Hawthorne’s solo performance, "The Chronicles of the Fish Diaries." Photo by Rich-Joseph Facun.

School of Dance Technical Director and Lighting Designer John Bohuslawsky said way back in May, they all agreed to move forward with the show, with the understanding that they could be shut down at any moment. 

“We accepted the fact that this show might not happen and that it was completely out of our hands,” said Bohuslawsky, who is also the advisor for The Movement Organization and served as the technical director and production manager for the show. “We all agreed to take that chance. We did everything following the ever-changing guidelines of PPE protocol.” 

The performers—Lexi Bell, Kassie Keil, Brittany “Bert” Hawthorne, Cierra Hill, Maya Holcomb, and Riley Murray—took to the socially-distanced stage on Sept. 5 in the Shirley Wimmer Dance Theater to perform a total of four solos and one group piece.

Bohuslawsky felt if they couldn’t give the graduates closure on their academic experience in the School of Dance, at least they could give them an opportunity for their first performance, post-graduation. 

“They were our first guest artists of this school year, 2020-21, and in turn, it was their first guest artist experience as newly minted professionals in the field,” he noted. “They showed what they learned in four years in the BFA Dance Program.”

The event also served as a model for the School of Dance to be able to put on another live-streamed show. They plan on streaming “The Movement Concert” at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 and Nov. 6.

Read more College of Fine Arts stories at OHIO News