BWW Feedback: Ambivalence, Dance, and Streaming During Corona
BroadwayWorld Dance recognizes the need for connection during this period of forced isolation. In the weeks to come, we are issuing a new series of commentary, previously unpublished reviews from the most recent season, critical assessments, and resource guides. If you have an idea that you would like to see covered, please feel free to contact me directly.
In considering the "new normal" that this pandemic has created for the dance field--constant streaming and appeals for attention--I have found myself doubting the sincerity and quality of what I find on display. I asked Kerime Konur--a freelance dancer and choreographer based in NYC--if she would share some of her thoughts about the need for connection mixed with her ambivalence towards the constant streamers.
Viral pandemics are hard. Obvious statement of the year, I know. Adhering to social isolation during this quarantine does nothing to abet the fear that at any moment society will decide to implode upon itself. Compound that with the constant but impractical yearning to hug, kiss, and snuggle with your loved ones--who you're also scared you might never see again--and what you have is a nightmare of unimaginable proportions. Much like the pandemic itself.
But the most painful aspect of this situation might be the inability to accomplish what we were put on this planet to do. I'm not going to lie, during the first two days of quarantine, I felt grateful for the "time off", but I'm a dancer and my "time on" is limited at best. There is a reason that people say "Being a dancer and an artist is not for the faint of heart": because our careers and identities can be taken away from us at a moment's notice. If I can dance past my mid-30's, I will have reached the dream that too many beautiful movers-and-shakers have had stripped away from them, suddenly and tragically.
Dancers face endless heartache, whether it be a "no" from casting, losing out on "the role that was the one", or hearing "you're great but you're too--skinny, fat, tall, short, muscular, fill-in-the-blank"--being a dancer means rejection after rejection and barely enough compensation to pay the bills even when you are finally, thankfully, accepted. But even in the worst of times (being told "We're not hiring but thanks for showing up anyway" after three back-to-back auditions, for instance) what gets most of us through the daily grind is being able to go to our safe space: the dance floor, the studio, the place where we can come together and sweat it all out while building connections with each other through space, time, and music. But this is "Dance in the time of a Pandemic" and even that has been ripped from us.
Now there is a new pain throbbing in some of our hearts. The quarantine has stripped down the privilege of having a job, money, or access to professional connections to create a new class of "have and have-nots". It's space: having the actual physical space in your home to keep in shape while living under a "shelter in place" policy implemented by our government to keep us all safe.
Seeking to solve the problem of missed connections, some dancers have started going LIVE on Instagram. Do these dancers understand the implications of going LIVE or re-posting someone else's misguided intentions on their LIVE feed? Scrolling through the endless meditations, classes, and advice on healthy practices, I can't help wondering if the people on the other side of the screen are certified or have ever taught before. Who are these people leading these classes and why are they doing it?
Is Tiler Peck a qualified teacher who has dedicated herself to instructing people? No, she's a principal ballerina at New York City Ballet, and her class is something that few of her viewers can actually do. So who is she doing it for? I recently had a conversation with Juan Michael Porter II about all of this.
JMPII: Is this new LIVE class format to promote connection or to gain followers? Can it be both? The bulk of these videos promote questionable practices. In the case of Peck, her class comes out of her career and training at NYCB which is impractical for most people. And if we are to read many of the comments in similar feeds, what one sees time after time is "That was beautiful, but I can't do it." So again, who does sharing content from popular dancers benefit? Now the logical conclusion is, Log Off.
Kerime Konur: Unfollow people who make you feel bad about yourself.
JMPII: Or people who don't know what they are doing. But in these extraordinary times, logging on is the only way to stay connected. When I see classes like Peck's or Isabella Boylston's, what I come away thinking is, "That was a heartfelt gesture without considering that most of your viewers lack the physical space or facility to accomplish what you are doing." But mostly, what I think is, "I want to see Milton Myers, Willy Burmman, Yung Yung Tsaui, or Nancy Bielski go LIVE; people who have devoted decades of their lives to refining their teaching and who after this crisis has passed will continue to teach while everyone else goes back to being fabulous on stage." Too often these LIVE streams feel opportunistic, poorly done, and without a solid pedagogical foundation or system for building practitioners up. I keep waiting for the inevitable product promotion to come along. But twirl, baby, twirl.
I know I sound like a fuddy-duddy but something that gives me alarm is the potential for people to hurt themselves, particularly when the person giving instruction on the other side of the screen is not queuing, giving modifications, or warnings about how to deal with certain moves. Let's not forget that dancers are clumsy at even the best of times and dancing in a restricted space, on a slippery tiled filed floor or lumpy carpet is a recipe for injury. The last thing I want to read about is an Instagram fan suing a dancer because said dancer's class did not include proper warnings. We may not know what this new world entails but protecting our viewers and ourselves NEEDS to be a consideration.
Kerime: As artists, performers, and teachers, how do we distinguish between popularity contests, raising clout, "wokeness," education and genuine human connection? Is this an ongoing issue in the NYC community or singular to the pandemic circumstances? What about other communities?
Most dancers/artists/millennials who are not from NYC are essentially trapped in place and wish that we could pack up and go home to our moms and dads to be taken care of. Home cooked food from parents tastes better than any Day 14 quarantine insta-pot recipe ever could. And now that ALL of us are jobless, how are we to pay for groceries and ingredients for our next crock pot creations? It's a reality that weighs heavily on the spirits of those who aren't as privileged as our home-bound but supported friends.
It is a privilege to be able to leave New York to go home. Having strong financial foundations rooted at home or parents who are able to help is a privilege. It is a privilege to have the space to LIVE stream your dancing from home. It is a privilege to be able to participate in LIVE training sessions. And yes, I am aware of how privileged I am privileged to have this outlet to share my thoughts.. Let's all stay mindful of what we are putting out there and consider, "Who are you doing it for?" BEFORE we go LIVE on the gram.
I am writing these words in an attempt to come to terms with difficult thoughts that I have been grappling with over the past few days. If you are struggling like I am, I want you to know that I HEAR YOU! While the masses are quarantined at home watching tv, films, streaming music, and submerging themselves in art, remember that we--the technicians, designers, artists, creatives, writers, and builders--are the ones who created the content that they are consuming. As a dancer who works in other industries as a source of income and has been furloughed, I can't help but worry about my colleagues, many of whom are immigrants with families. This feeling is mutual to all struggling to grasp this new concept of reality. We are in mourning. What's even more unsettling during this quarantine period is that the suffering of "Artists" has become interchangeable with an unimaginable amount of careers and workers who are all dealing with loss as well: WE FEEL YOU.
Kerime Konur is a freelance dancer, teacher, choreographer, photographer and videographer living in NYC. Kerime is currently performing with The Jinah Parker Project in a show titled SHE. "The best way to describe SHE is the VAGINA MONOLOGUES meets FOR COLORED GIRLS in the 21st century. SHE is about ending violence against women and girls. It is about what happens to women like Sandra Bland; it is about all female identified individuals and it is about healing and empowerment" -Jinah Parker.
A note from Juan Michael Porter II: In declaring a state of emergency, certain services have been made available for New Yorkers. Click the link below and read. I have excerpted the parts that are directly related to government assistance. And if any one is embarrassed by the idea of taking assistance, you pay into this and support the world around you with your taxes. In your time of need, it is the government's job to step in and do its part to support you back. PLEASE, don't go hungry out of pride.
Emergency Assistance for New Yorkers
The Department of Social Services will activate the City's emergency food contracts in coordination with other City agencies as needed.
The City will also continue to provide a range of resources and services that help New Yorkers make ends meet every day:
Individuals seeking emergency Cash Assistance to cover rent or utility arrears can visit any one of HRA's Job Centers to apply for these benefits also known as "one shot deals". Additionally, individuals with an active Cash Assistance case can also visit www.nyc.gov/ACCESSHRA to apply for a one shot deal online. Eligibility will be determined based on factors including available income and resources. Call 311 to find your local Job Center.
Please go to ACCESS/HRA at www.nyc.gov/ACCESSHRA to see if you qualify for SNAP/food stamps.
If you need emergency assistance with food, call 311 to find your local pantry or kitchen - note there is no income guideline for emergency food.
Please go to https://info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/ or call the NYS State of Health at 1-855-355-5777 to see if you can qualify for Medicaid or other free and low cost health insurance.
For eviction assistance, please call 311 or Infoline at 718-557-1399 to be referred to one of HRA's Homebase offices.
If you are facing eviction at Housing Court you may be able to access free legal representation through HRA's Office of Civil Justice. Please Call 311 for more information.