Local Dance in Era of Coronavirus

Connective Medium Finds its Feet in Digital World

Cameron Basden

Arts Ballet Theater's Janis Liu in


Arts Ballet Theater's Janis Liu in "Papillon" (Photo: Patricia Laine Romero.)

There is a lot of dance in Southern Florida. I’m privileged, as a former dancer, as a writer, and as the Artistic Director of Miami Dance Hub to interact with almost every dance organization in one capacity or another.

We began Miami Dance Hub with a mission to unify and encourage conversation among the dance organizations while promoting them and growing the dance audience. So, the more we know about the dance climate, the better. It seems there is always a necessary conversation to be held and a new coal on the fire, whether it is the sheer beauty of performance, the relevant and timely conversations about innovation, or the on-going financial needs of all arts organizations.

This brings us to the present  coronavirus pandemic and quarantine we all find ourselves in. Dance is about connection, with an audience and with each other. Frankly, the present situation makes that impossible. While screen dance has become more inventive and popular, and continuous conversation is encouraged, live performance is at the heart of what dance is about. The present time, however, has forced an issue that, perhaps, was in the process, but now has become a necessity.

Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami.


Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami.

Dance has gone, for now, totally virtual.

As our dance landscape has transformed, social media, telling stories virtually, and now, while staying at home, dance directors have been forced to grow their skills as editors, videographers, and, once again, as creators.

This time, however, it’s in a virtual world.

Feeling an urgency to stay connected to their dancers in a time of physical separation seems to be a priority, along with keeping an active presence.

Dance NOW! Miami, under the Co-Artistic Direction of Hannah Baumgarten and Diego Salterini, feels that the commitment to its audiences, dancers and the Florida dance community is stronger than ever. With a three pronged plan of strategy quickly implemented, DNM halted all activities that required gatherings, began new online initiatives, producing new content to be shared virtually, and continued its mission to inspire, educate and entertain through the art form of dance.

The company has maintained its rehearsals, continues to create new choreography, and will keep dancers employed through the end of their contracts.

I was privy to see one of DNM’s Zoom rehearsals and was amazed at how dedicated and hard working dancers were in their home setting, and just how much had been created.

It is a whole new palette.

Karen Peterson, founder and Artistic Director of Karen Peterson and Dancers, a physically integrated company, says, “I am trying to stay connected to my dancers, keep a presence on social media and remain optimistic for our 30th Anniversary Concert on Oct. 24 and 25.”

While writing grants, and with her fingers crossed for "normalcy" in October, Peterson has been honing her video skills with the making of Exquisite Corpse, a video montage of twenty Florida dance artists, divided by space and united by movement.

A sneak preview of the raw video footage of Exquisite Corpse gave me an inside look at the creativity and commitment that this quarantine period has enabled, and perhaps necessitated. Dancers need to dance and this video is a testament to that.

Arts Ballet Theater dancers, under the direction of Vladimir Issaev, are missing the studio and the ability to train and rehearse in conditions that are necessary for a dancer.

Dance NOW! Miami (Photo Simon Soong)


Dance NOW! Miami (Photo Simon Soong)

“You need the proper floor to dance, jump and not get hurt, to travel, and fulfill the combinations. Emotionally everyone is terribly affected,” says Executive Director, Ruby Issaev. “It will be important to be back at the studio and have that feeling of freedom and joy while moving. Now that audiences have been exposed to more dance online, well, they are going to be expecting more. So we need to be ready.”

Holding true to traditional classical dance, Eriberto Jimenez is the Executive and Artistic Director of Miami Hispanic Cultural Arts Center, the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami and the International Ballet Festival of Miami. Overseeing these organizations is always a challenge, but this period, especially, makes strategizing a big unknown.

“Virtual is the new reality,” Jimenez says. “As there is still the uncertainty of knowing when the city and theaters will reopen, we have tried to plan various strategies to carry out our remaining programming. At the moment our organizations are presenting pre-recorded programming and live ballet classes for professionals and students.The Miami Hispanic Cultural Arts Center will continue to be broadcast virtually and the classes of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami School will continue to take place via zoom for our students and anyone who wants to participate.”

It seems that adaptability and flexibility have become key words as the dance community evolves.

Karen Peterson and Dancers (Photo by Karime Arabia)


Karen Peterson and Dancers (Photo by Karime Arabia)

While everyone seems to have found their way in the present, the big looming question is ‘what happens next?’ With this virtual dance community, how is the present going to inform and translate into a dance landscape that will be forever altered once this pandemic is over.

To discuss these possibilities, challenges and even opportunities, the Miami Dance Hub hosted a virtual forum on Wednesday, May 6.

Voices from across the nation gave unique perspectives as to what our changing dance field may evolve to.

“Our goal with this forum is not to brainstorm ways to replace live performance,” says Miami Dance Hub Executive Director, Trisha Carter. “This conversation aims to think critically about how our industry can readjust to the current climate and find creative solutions for presenting dance on a socially distanced stage and virtual platform in the near and distant future.”

This is an unprecedented time in the dance community, as it is in all the arts. Amazing creations are in the "virtual" works. We know, however, that the dance climate will never be the same.


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