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The Dance Centre at Home

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we – along with many other organizations – closed our building, and staff spent the next eleven weeks working at home. Here’s what we did, what we missed, and what we learned:

What aspect of your job did you miss the most during the shutdown? 

I missed the sense of community in the building. Riding the elevator with dancers on their way to rehearsal. Seeing audiences gather for shows. I miss the coming and going of familiar faces and being able to catch up with artists as we pass in the halls or on the street outside the building. -Gemma

I really missed being surrounded by dance every day – the sounds of dancers in the studios, the stimulating conversations with artists, and the fantastic communal experience of seeing work in our theatre with other people. -Heather

The planning and execution of shows. Watching show after show get cancelled or postponed and receiving those notifications on my calendar as the days whizzed past was difficult. -Chengyan

My colleagues – Zoom and Facetime are not the same for brainstorming. -Robin

I missed bumping into the lovely Jean Orr, Canada’s first Giselle, and other members of the dance community, at Scotiabank Dance Centre. -Sheri

I really missed coming into the building and seeing my co-workers and the bustling creative energy in the studios. My job is all about connecting with and supporting artists so it was very difficult to wrap my head around not being able to see anyone or watch a rehearsal. -Linda

What was most difficult – or a pleasant surprise – about working from home?

The best/worst part of working from home was easy access to coffee… -Gemma

I was surprised by the amount of communication we were able to maintain as a staff. Delivering our seniors’ dance classes (taught by Linda Arkelian) via Zoom worked surprising well. I was delighted that Barclay Manor and the West End Seniors Network were willing to try and pleasantly surprised by the interest and number of attendees each week. It was a work highlight for me. -Claire

The most wonderful part about being at home was a reconnection of family that happened in our house. My son came home from university and his Dad and I spent a lot of time with him watching movies, playing board games, buying groceries for seniors and cooking together. The most difficult part of working at home was the feeling of a surreal disconnect, Zoom meetings do not replace personal interactions. -Linda

Having my wife around me at all times during my work was both very pleasant and very distracting to us both, haha…- Chengyan

At the onset of the shutdown I thought I would have so much more time to do things I long to do more of: read, garden, organize, renovate…the only thing I managed  to do with more regularity due to time restraints was baking (I have yet to find a great recipe for gluten free bread; cakes seem to be less of an issue) and gardening – I was grateful for the good weather! -Mirna

I had the opportunity to spend more time with my handsome maincoon cat who made guest appearances on Zoom calls.- Sheri

A work at home set up with a tablet, coffee and a calculator on a desk         

How did you engage with dance during quarantine? What was the highlight?

The shutdown for me was an opportunity to reconnect with some artists as I worked with several to help with grant writing and board development initiatives. I also engaged in a lot of grant writing, reporting and other proposals for The Dance Centre! The days seemed in fact more packed that ever, with Zooms of all sorts: local, regional and national conferences, hang-outs with colleagues, discussions and sharing of information. I felt this was a time that in a strange way brought us together to address solutions and identify specific issues within the sector. -Mirna

I was a regular of Jill Henis’ Kitchen Ballet Series (a highlight for me) and I took classes in GagaCounter Technique, Tap and Hip Hop. I participated in talks, conversations, panels, classes, workshops and interviews via Zoom and attended several watch parties including Fusebox Festival and On the Outside of Dance Centre work, my time was packed with lots of other dance-related writing, reading, research and re-planning creation periods with Restless Productions. I subscribed to Marquee TV and watched all of Alexander Ekman’s offerings, plus many other hits and wonders. I went for lots of walks with my partner on under-populated streets, which also sometimes felt to me like a type of slow, quiet dance of our own. -Claire

I really enjoyed scrolling through Instagram to see how various dance artists were continuing to train at home – their set ups were always really cool, especially the different pieces of furniture being used as barres. -Lindsay

In addition to my work schedule, I spent a lot of my time reading books about dance artists and choreography as well as viewing new work and participating in events specifically created for online platforms. -Raquel

My dance engagement during quarantine involved tons of emails and Zoom meetings with artists, trying to re-envision what their projects could look like under COVID-19. I also watched a lot of wonderful dance videos on Facebook and Instagram that individual artists were putting out which reminded me about the ingenuity, flexibility and importance of the arts. -Linda

What is one thing that you discovered during the shutdown?

Working from home highlighted the impact that dance has on our lives beyond attending shows, and social media revealed what people love about dance, and what they will do to stay connected with the artform. I have loved seeing how people have adapted what they love about dance to a virtual platform. -Gemma

I started listening to more podcasts, including the Dance Edit and Talking Sh*t with Tara Cheyenne, and plan to keep making time for those. -Heather

I saw how many people were giving classes Instagram and I was able to share them via our IG stories, something we will continue to do in the future – everyone is adapting and figuring out ways to share dance online and I love being a part it.-Lindsay

One thing that I discovered during shutdown was an arts platform for professional development recommended by a colleague which I will continue to engage with through their online bootcamps, seminars and blogs. -Raquel

What is the best part of being back at Scotiabank Dance Centre?

It’s great to see everyone else on the team in person again – we worked hard to support each other remotely during the shutdown, but it’s not the same! -Heather

The people for sure! I miss having random conversations with my coworkers and now we also get to share our shutdown experiences (and compliment each other on our mask choices!). -Lindsay

The facility is a resource that we use to support dancers. Having access to this resource again and working to serve the needs of the community is very fulfilling. -Chengyan

The commute to work (walking and biking), getting outside, and seeing other people. -Robin

The sights and sounds of artists and colleagues at work. -Raquel

Scotiabank Dance Centre is a designated safe and spacious place for all kinds of dance artists and dance advocates to find root in these times. I look forward to gradually seeing more faces around the building and hearing more rhythms and sounds coming from the studios. Returning to the office, I can now continue the job in physical relation to the office team, even if behind masks and plexiglass. I empathise with people who do not yet feel comfortable to return but I am reassured by the work we are doing here and the protocols we have in place and I am extremely grateful for the building. I hope that we continue to work together to find ways to enliven it with creative practices, especially if we want to keep it as a dance hub in these uncertain and precarious times. -Claire

Dance Centre staff pose with masks and cleaning spray
Back at the office practicing our cleaning protocols!

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