Pandemic forced BalletX to postpone its Spring Series in March, but the company is combining digital tools with innovative approaches to keep dancing and stay connected as we all stay at home. First came a series of free web premieres, followed by the company’s Instagram Live initiative, Lunch Breaks, in which artistic and executive director Christine Cox interviews dancers about their lives as artists.
Let’s talk over lunch
The impossibility of gathering together to share spaces and experiences, including art, helped to inspire Lunch Breaks. The interview series explores human connection in ways that fight feelings of isolation as we maintain physical distance from others. Making use of BalletX’s familiarity with technology—in 2018, the company developed Yonder via Skype with Amsterdam-based choreographer Wubkje Kuindersma—Lunch Breaks looks to build and strengthen community in Philadelphia and beyond.
Cox explained that while the Lunch Breaks interviews are unscripted, they follow a template designed to “take the audience through the dancers’ journey.” Dancing professionally requires a certain kind of resilience, but as Cox pointed out, “We’re all real and going through our own real challenges” right now. The intimate discussions of adversity and perseverance create moving experiences for participants as well as viewers. The Lunch Breaks series will conclude with a look ahead as Cox introduces the company’s new dancers, Savannah Green and Ashley Simpson.
BalletX has plenty more in store. New dances are in development via split-screen collaborations with choreographers Rena Butler, Penny Saunders, Hope Boykin, and dancer Caili Quan, who will retire from the company at the end of 2019-2020.. Like many of us, the dancers are working from home right now, with the help of special flooring. When it’s safe for groups to gather outside, summer may bring an outdoor pop-up BalletX performance. Meanwhile, online dance classes offer a way to stay connected to the company, get moving, and have fun while staying safe. For a limited time, classes taught by BalletX dancers and teaching artists will be offered for free daily on Instagram Live. These range from beginner ballet to contemporary to voguing, with options for children and adults.