First-year Ballet Experience: Dance Overcomes the Pandemic

Ballet is Life”— this phrase has lived within me for the past year as I spun my countless, imperfect pirouettes three times a week in the beautiful dance studio of the Lang Performing Arts Center (LPAC). When my dance instructor, Chandra Moss-Thorne, first introduced this phrase to us at the beginning of Ballet I, I didn’t quite understand its profound implications. But as time flew by, seasons changed, I have grown as a dancer along with the thriving woods that the dance studio overlooks. Ballet has become another essential aspect of my life at Swat, a new hobby that I picked up during the global pandemic, and an invigorating form of my self-expression through movement and artistry. 

Who would have envisioned themselves getting into a performance dance that originated from the Italian Renaissance during the abnormal freshman year of the global pandemic? 

—I certainly didn’t! I came in with no intention of pursuing dance until a fellow Californian Swattie dancer whom I’ve become super close friends with dragged me to sign up for Ballet I with her. I thought about the perks of completing the PE requirements early as one dance class per semester fulfills 2 credits, and we need 4 PE credits to graduate along with the swim test, and so I finally added the ballet course during the course registration. 

I did some Jazz and Indian traditional dances when I was really little but with no ballet background, I was pretty intimidated going into the class. However, when I got to know the instructor Chandra and the dancers more, my nebulous uncertainties faded away since I never felt out of place: all of the dancers had diverse dance backgrounds, and Chandra was particularly accommodating and understanding. I was challenged to experiment with the flexibility of my body through basic ballet techniques, stretching, and pilates without being pressured to reach a certain level. The dance department perfectly illustrates Swat’s collaborative and supportive learning environment. Every first-year Swattie has their exhilarating and inspiring “surprise” courses that they eventually fall in love with during their first semester at Swat which is pass-fail, and mine was ballet. 

My favorite part of the ballet experience was certainly going into the dance studio in person despite COVID-19 safety regulations. The Boyer Dance Studio was open for 8 dancers to safely dance six feet apart from each other on the barres. The hybrid class was set up with a camera and projector that accommodated half of our remote dancers on Zoom where they could still see Chandra and the studio space on the screen. We could also hear them through the loudspeakers that simultaneously transmitted live music from our lovely pianist to dancers at home.  

It took some time to get used to dancing with a mask on, but throughout the year, I was slowly noticing the silver lining of it. I think each dancer was able to focus more on their musicality and technique through precise movement when we were less distracted by our facial expressions (smiles under the masks when we were one second away from falling during adagio always). Ballet became a coping mechanism for all of us to overcome the feelings of isolation during the pandemic as we swept across the dance floor together along with the melodious music in our ears and secretly scream at the top of our lungs: ballet is life and dance overcomes the pandemic! 

As weeks have gone by, I could point my toes a lot more for tendus and lift my leg a lot higher for arabesques. I was enrolled in Ballet II in the spring, and I cherished the invaluable discussions I had with fellow dancers who had extensive ballet training about potential improvements and tricks for pas de bourrees. 

With everything being said, I highly recommend everyone to try Ballet I at least once during their time at Swat and get involved with dance! No matter if it’s continuing ballet, taking courses of another genre of dance, or joining a student-led dance club like Rhythm N Motion, I cannot wait to see where my dance journey will take me at Swat.

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