Ballroom Dancing in the Time of the Coronavirus

“We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another.”

I think by this point, we all know what has happened. While it’s still hard to believe, the world is beginning to accept that the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has brought human civilization to a turning point. It’s thrown our healthcare system, our economy, our educational structure, the very way of life of almost every person on the planet, into chaos. With over one million cases worldwide, and tens of thousands already gone, the numbers climb so fast that all we can do is pray for those who are fighting for their lives. 

This is an extremely scary but also deeply humbling time for us ballroom dancers. When you can no longer compete, when you can no longer teach, when you can no longer even touch your partner…how can you survive and thrive in the time of the coronavirus?

Begin the Journey Inward 

There is no doubt—staying home is the right thing to do. But when you’re on day 12347279 of quarantine and you can no longer feel your standing leg…the frustration of not being able to practice normally can be hard. Studios are closed, your coach is stuck at home too, your partner is out of reach, and you have no idea when your next competition will be…perhaps it’s time to begin the journey of dance inward. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”; and that my dancing friends, you can do in your living room. With no mirrors to see what you look like, perhaps you can focus on sensing what you feel like. Body awareness, balance, coordination, and alignment are cardinal elements of dance that can be worked on anywhere at anytime. Being able to sense your body is essential for great movement; but it’s also critical for achieving sensuality. Attention all female (or male) dancers who wish to appear more “sensual” on the dance floor—“sense” is at the root of “sensuality”. 

Use Your Imagination 

It is said that legendary pianists like Horowitz and Rubinstein weren’t always fond of practicing. Horowitz apparently feared that practicing on pianos other than his own would ruin his touch, preferring mental practice instead when he wasn’t home. Rubinstein is said to have learned Frank’s Symphonic Variations in its entirety by engaging in mental practice on the train, playing it for the first time at the rehearsal. Does mental practice really work? Research seems to say yes. Numerous studies of athletes have demonstrated that successful individuals tend to engage in more systematic and intensive mental rehearsals than less successful individuals. These studies suggest there are two important things to keep in mind while engaging in mental practice (i.e. of your ballroom routines)—it must be systematic as well as vivid. In other words, mental practice is not the same as daydreaming. Structure your mental dance practices like you would at the dance studio. Include components of problem solving, self-evaluation, and correction of mistakes. But by all means, do not stop practicing

Feed Your Creativity 

While practice is paramount, the most legendary artists did not make their name by rehearsing, but by creating. Van Gogh completed his world-famous “Starry Night”, while being “locked down” in a mental asylum near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in winter of 1888 after experiencing a mental breakdown. The ever-enchanting village scene, with its seductive swirls and beguiling nocturnal color palette, doesn’t actually exist. Van Gogh was inspired by the natural landscape outside his small, barred window of the asylum, and combined it with memories of his Dutch homeland. Ballroom dancers all over the world, too, are experiencing “lock down” during the coronavirus pandemic. Without the pressure of competition, there is no better time to create than now—put that cool lindy hop move you saw on youtube into your jive, choreograph a waltz show to that that song you’ve been obsessed with, design your dream competition dress yourself! Creativity gives you freedom. Creativity is investment. Pick up your brush and start painting your own brighter and more colorful dance future. 

Collect Your Inspiration 

I guess one thing we can be thankful for is that we are living through a pandemic during the digital age. Imagine how life in quarantine would be like if there was no high-speed internet. Social media channels have been teeming with inspirational content relevant for ballroom dancers for weeks since the lock-down began—dance videos, new music, at home workout routines, meditation exercises, dieting recipes, hair and makeup tutorials, DIY everything under the sun. You can literally sit on your couch and get inspired. Don’t underestimate the power of inspiration to get you through hard times. Collect that power like a battery, because it’s going to rocket you to new heights as soon as life returns to normal.   

Support each other 

Every day, new dance workshops and interviews become available online to anyone in the dance community free of charge. Every day, more dancers begin online dance lessons with their teachers. Tens of thousands of words of encouragement have been exchanged within our dance community. For every message of doubt there have been one hundred responses of hope. For every message of fear, there have been one thousand responses of love. Our collective positivity has been more infectious than any virus. This is how we will survive and thrive—by supporting one another and our shared love for dancing. 

Think of this period as a sabbatical where you continue to learn and improve but in alternative ways, hunt for inspiration, create, and get motivated. Think of this period as a mandatory vacation where you get to rest and recharge, spend more time with family and with yourself, reflect on your best dance memories and remember why you love to dance. Never forget that for every day that passes, we are one day closer to everything being back to normal again. And for us ballroom dancers, that means we are one day closer to being back on that floor again. 
Written By: Jessica Li

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