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Student Blog: Performing Live Again


Sabrina Duke recalls performing in outdoor live performances following over a year without being onstage.

Student Blog: Performing Live Again
Photo Credit: Jim Fairman

Sabrina Duke recalls performing in outdoor live performances following over a year without being onstage.

During the first weekend of May, the University of Iowa Dance Company (UIDC), Ballet Des Moines, Carlos Quenedit from Ballet Monterrey, and Katia Carranza of Miami City Ballet toured the state of Iowa and performed in front of live audiences. With social distancing and masks mandatory, the cast of 22 danced on 3 outdoor stages in 3 days. For the first time since Covid-19 began, things felt normal.

For this performance, I was in the dance "And Let's Go." Choreographed by Alex Bush and performed to the "Hawkeye Drumline," a very recognizable piece of music in the state of Iowa, the dance is meant to invoke a sense of community during a time when people have arguably never felt more apart. The choreography itself connects the dancers, as the sharp unison movements require the dancers watch and feel each other while listening to the music to move together. This connection is invigorating, and I hope the audience felt it too.

The week before the tour, I was excited, but not yet nervous. Then, on Wednesday I realized the sweatpants I had been wearing for the past 14 months may not be appropriate for the receptions we were to attend following the performances. I frantically called mom, who thankfully overnighted me dresses and heels. The fact I had forgotten dressing up was a thing made me realize performing live again may not be like riding a bike. I had not performed live in over a year ago, and I had never performed live with a mask. Needless to say, the nerves hit hard.

On Friday afternoon, we arrived in Des Moines, Iowa. After a quick warm-up, blocking rehearsal, dinner, and outdoor make-up and hair session, it was showtime. With nerves and excitement equally high, the "And Let's Go" cast prepared to open the show. The lights hit the opening soloist, the music played through the speakers, and the dance began. When I stepped onstage, it felt in many ways, unbelievable, in others, completely expected. Throughout the past year+, I had known I would perform live again, but I was not prepared for the pure joy this experience would bring. As the cast left the stage following our bow, it took a lot to remain calm and professional, for we wanted nothing more than to jump up and down and scream out of excitement. As I stood backstage to watch Ballet Des Moines's first piece, I couldn't stop smiling, and I didn't want to.

I cannot thank Hancher Auditorium, Des Moines Ballet, and the directors of the UIDC along with the Anonymous Family Foundation, Bravo Greater Des Moines, and the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines enough for their generosity in making this performance possible. I believe I speak for the rest of UIDC when I say there are not enough words to communicate how much this opportunity meant to us. This performance was a dream come true, and we will remember it for the rest of our lives.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Sabrina Duke