Performance students prepare for online performances, practice in new spaces

Tori Duff

Dance and theatre majors have faced obstacles this semester as they try to learn physical skills in a virtual environment with few in-person classes.

According to an email that was sent to department faculty on Aug. 24 and obtained by the Daily Texan, Department of Theatre and Dance leadership said the 2020-21 Texas Theatre and Dance season will hold all productions over Vimeo to provide safe performance opportunities.

While some rehearsals, like those for the upcoming show, “(Re)current Unrest”, are taking place in person while adhering to social distancing guidelines, other professors in the department are working to ensure students can continue to build on their skills virtually. 

The Department of Theatre and Dance did not respond to request for comment.

Fine arts students in online classes have started using new spaces to practice dancing and acting in, such as rooms and common areas in their dorms, apartments, or on campus. 

Associate dance professor Leah Cox said she and her students have made the best out of the situation while being separate through conducting mental check-ins.

“It's a big cultural shift from being able to dance in the studio where you had a lot of space,” Cox said. “Now, you've got a whole new space to dance in, and you’ve got to figure out a whole new way of moving in that space and valuing that experience.”

Dance freshman Grace Emmert said online learning has given her the opportunity to focus on different aspects of dance.

“We're not running around the studio, attacking choreography, but we're really diving into the details of our practice,” Emmert said. “I'm feeling like this is more beneficial for me right now than doing the same thing I've done for 13 years would be. I’m honestly really grateful.”

Emmert said her professors have helped keep her and her peers’ spirits up during the transition.

“(My professors) have really taken hold of the idea that the dance world and the art world is obviously so different right now,” Emmert said. “They really show up for us even though it can be easy to be discouraged.”

Acting lecturer Barbara Chisholm said students have been incredible at continuing acting over Zoom.

“I see them chatting with each other in the chat function of Zoom and commenting on each other's things,” Chisholm said. “They are really getting to know each other in a way that's been such a happy surprise.”

Simon Thomas, a theatre and dance sophomore, said online classes allow for students to not worry about being exposed while developing their skills.

“I'd be stressing out about having to see people regularly that I don't live with or hang out with normally,” Thomas said. “I’m focusing more on internal character work rather than stage work.”