To my Black Kings and Queens,
I've been quiet for some time now, but I think it's time that I finally express how I've been holding up during this pandemic era. And let me tell you, it's been such a STRUGGLE! Like many others, the Coronavirus pandemic has put a lot of strain on our already complicated lives; preventing many of us from doing the things that we love, or even the things that we need in order to survive. Dance is such a contact heavy art, that you can only imagine the hardship our community has had to deal with while living in this socially distant era. So, here's how I've been holding up:
I wake before you a few hours before I head to the dance studio. No, I'm not taking a class, teaching a class, or even going to a rehearsal. I will be headed to the studio soon to lab, and choreograph alone.
It's gotten to a point where I just can't take it anymore! During this Coronavirus era, I can probably count on my hands the number of times I've been to the studios with others. In the beginning of this pandemic, the world was put on pause once the states went into lockdown and quarantine one by one. Everything was closed; there was no where you could go unless you got creative outdoors. As quarantine went on months later, virtual dance classes grew pretty popular. Now, I will be completely honest when I say that I strongly disliked virtual classes! (Can you tell that I wanted to use another word for 'strongly dislike'?) One, I've never had a great amount of space to rehearse in my home. Two, the videos on Zoom and Google Meet had such horribly quality, that most of the video would freeze, and you couldn't see important details in body usage and timing. It's also very difficult to hear any music through the video calls because often the music would lag while instructors would teach.
I know this may be just as irritating for the instructors as it was for me, but I had to tolerate all of these issues for what feels like half of an entire year to prepare for a virtual burlesque showcase. During this time, I've witnessed a few women drop out one by one over the course of these rehearsals; and though in some ways it was disappointing, I completely understood why some women made the decision to leave the program. COVID brought on so many challenges, that they often took priority over dancing in a virtual burlesque show.
Like many, I didn't have much to do while on lockdown; some days would be very depressing as I sat and did nothing for hours. But despite feeling low due to my extreme laziness, I still dreaded having virtual dance rehearsals almost every week. I'm even embarrassed to say that I would sometimes try to think of wanting to do almost anything else to avoid taking part in rehearsal.
...Horrible right?? I ultimately grew tired of rehearsing the same routines that I once felt would never be performed. I think the hardest part for me was that I'd been desperately missing the studio environment as a whole. The dance studio has become like a second home to me over the years. No matter which studio, I feel so comfortable there, and everyone around me feels like family so effortlessly. Standing in the middle of the marley floor, in front of a huge mirror with music loud enough for me to hear is what I crave. That feeling alone is what gets me motivated and pumped up to move. It's an escape from reality; and lately I've been feeling like virtual learning was a constant reminder that I was being trapped within my reality. I couldn't wait for the virtual dance program to be over, and there was nothing I missed more than to step foot into a studio and be free once again.
Last May, Georgia became one of the first out of all 50 states to lift the stay at home order. Despite Coronavirus numbers rising in both cases and deaths, just about everything reopened; from stores, to malls, to restaurants and lounges, to yes, you guessed it: dance studios. I know that for many this was a huge relief and it felt like our communities could finally get back to feeling some sense of normalcy, but some of us on the other hand knew that it was way too soon. Opening up our state that early was just an attempt to get the economy moving again; even if it means putting businesses before the lives and well beings of others during one of the most deadliest tragedies we've ever known. I couldn't help but to feel like this was a huge mistake, and despite the decisions made by others, I've made it a priority to protect my family and those around me.
Even though most individuals my age (in their late teens to mid twenties) aren't affected by it as heavily, we are known to act as super spreaders and asymptomatic carriers. The virus is so invisible and so sneaky, that literally anything you do outside of your home could be what changes your life, or the lives of your loved ones drastically.
Towards the fall, I've tried to step back into class, and I even observed some rehearsals for a few weeks. But during this time, I've witnessed many, if not most people coming into class without masks on while dancing in large numbers. These dancers come from all over Atlanta, and if they're not wearing masks here, it's almost certain that they're not wearing masks in other areas. Standing in front of these super talented and hungry dancers had me torn; I was so excited to be in the space of such creativity, but I became so uneasy at the same time. Dancing can be a very close contact type of art, where you often dance in large groups or partnerships with others. It's impossible to avoid breathing on each other in this environment. I could only imagine the Coronavirus cases circulating in just one dance class/rehearsal at a time. Even though I pray for every single person in that room, I know that I had to ultimately remove myself, and that it would be a while before I'd return.
So now it's been months since I've step foot in a studio with others; I rarely go anywhere that's outside of my everyday travel to work. Although I know that I've made the right decision, it's becoming super frustrating. I miss the studio life tremendously, and everyday that I decide not to take class, I feel like a piece of me has disappeared. However, my frustration grows even more because it feels like I'm the only one fighting my urges for the sake of mine and my family's health.
Everywhere I look on social media, I see my friends taking class or performing at lounges, almost as if there was never a pandemic to begin with. I feel so small in this battle against COVID, and it doesn't feel like anyone else is suffering or sacrificing with me. It's become almost impossible to see the light at the end of this tunnel, because the numbers are still climbing everywhere. Not just cases, but deaths and hospitalizations. Almost everyday we've hit another record number of deaths in the U.S. and I don't believe this will slow down, unless we do.
So as much as it hurts, and as much as I miss my normal dance life, I will continue to make the sacrifices necessary to protect myself and those around me. I will continue to have faith that soon we will come out on the other side. But until then, I'll continue to book studio time for one.
Your Beautiful Black Queen