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Dancing classes, theater group find online audiences


Apr 05, 2020

By TANYA MANUS Rapid City Journal RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Spring theater performances, dance recitals and a symphony concert came to a standstill as COVID-19 prompted closures and cancellations. Though live shows can’t go on right now, local actors and dancers are using online tools to take entertainment and classes safely into living rooms across the Black Hills. Dance classes online Spring typically means Prima School of Dancing is gearing up for its annual recitals. More than 400 students were preparing for two recitals. Prima’s owner and director of 17 years, Christy Remington, stopped her in-person classes and postponed the recitals as soon as Gov. Kristi Noem called for schools to shut down. “I don’t know if the world has dealt with something like this to where literally it seems every community (worldwide) has been dramatically affected by needing to be quarantined,” she said. “When (the school shutdown) happened, we went to bat to see what we could offer our students.” Prima set up a portal with videos, recital information and more on its website and created a private Facebook page for families. Last month, Remington and her staff launched more than 50 classes for all ages and all styles of dance online. Prima plans to continue online classes throughout April. “We tried to hit the ground running to support our families. For our students, it can be an isolating time. Anything we can do to connect with them (provides a sense of community),” she said. “It’s been so awesome to communicate with my students and watch them dance.” “It’s been a real learning experience but just an incredible blessing to stay connected to students and families during this time,” Remington told the Rapid City Journal. “We’ve tried to encourage … posting a picture of dancing in your jammies, or post a picture of a family dance party, and if they’re taking classes, we love it if they comment or post a picture. It’s been really fun for us to have such a positive place of encouragement. So many of our families have been so appreciative and gracious.” The private Facebook page includes resources from the dancing community at large, she said, such as links to free classes by professional dancers. “Our students are so excited to see and hear from them because they recognize them,” Remington said. She compares the opportunity to take online classes from well-known “dance celebrities” to having a personal drill session with NBA players. “(Professional dancers) want people to keep moving and keep growing. They know how much dance can do for an individual. It’s so much more than learning how to do a proper pirouette. There as so many positive aspects as far as mental and emotional health as well as physical health,” Remington said. Remington has multiple back-up plans in place for rescheduling Prima’s recitals, based on what is recommended by local, state and national government agencies. The afternoon recital will have a Peter Pan theme. The evening recital theme, selected before the spread of coronavirus, is “we love our community.” “It’s almost even more fitting now and each of us teachers who do choreography for each class selected a nonprofit, and we are dedicating our dance to that nonprofit that is locally represented here in some way,” Remington said. “So many teachers selected nonprofits that are very near and dear to their hearts. It’s neat to allow students to become more aware of the organizations that are the heart of our community.” When the school shutdown was announced, the Academy of Dance Arts rapidly closed its three locations and took its classes online, a move that director Julie McFarland believes is good for her students’ and families’ emotional well-being as much as their dance skills. “Within 48 hours, I had 120 classes online” for the 400 families the Academy serves, McFarland said. “We were able to run all of the classes we offer. … I just really felt it was important for our sense of normalcy in all of this.” McFarland also created a website where Academy families can find resources from dance companies and schools nationwide, Zoom links to classes, class information and links to choreography students who were rehearsing for a May 2 performance. This year’s spring production was going to celebrate the academy’s 60th anniversary and McFarland’s 20th anniversary as director. McFarland tentatively has rescheduled the performance for mid-September and is focusing on celebrating and helping students navigate the current changes in their lives in positive ways. “I wanted to keep (our dancers’) heads in a very safe, healthy place in the midst of things that are very real concerns,” she said. “You only get one childhood. It’s important we lead and model positive outcomes, and we can get through this together.” The Academy will continue its online classes through April. “There’s so much joy in what’s happening and the feedback we’re getting from families has just been overwhelming,” McFarland said. She’s added a morning stretching class for students’ moms, and McFarland hopes having online classes will ease parental stress. “One of the pluses is … parents can get a little bit of relief now. It’s a chance for us to teach a class so mom or dad can make dinner or have (self-care) time,” she said. Barefoot Dance Studio announced on its Facebook page and by email March 28 that the studio would set up a variety of pre-recorded and live-streamed classes to meet students’ needs. Online classes will continue through April. Barefoot has a showcase, “Barefoot Silver Linings,” planned but a date has not been confirmed. “We all want to see your faces. We miss you terribly,” said owner Andrea Schaefer on a Facebook video. “We’re going to get through this.” Ghostlight Series In mid-March, Black Hills Community Theatre was days away from debuting “Tommy The Musical” and had just cast the roles for its final show of the 2019-2020 season. Those productions have been postponed for at least eight weeks, BHCT announced by email. BHCT’s Cherry Street Players and Well Done Players groups also had performances planned in April that are postponed, according to BHCT office administrator Ryan Puffer. To keep audiences entertained at home, BHCT performers are starring in “Ghostlight Series.” Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday viewers can tune in to facebook.com/BHCommunityTheater/ to see exclusive web content. The series launched March 23, and viewers who want to support BHCT can donate at bhct.org. “Basically, we feel it is still our job to educate and entertain the community with good theater,” Puffer said. BHCT fans will see many familiar faces, Puffer said, as local adult actors perform a mix of music and theater of their choosing. “I imagine it will be (material) they wanted to do and finally have a chance to work on,” he said. “We’ll keep cranking out content as long as we can, as long as (coronavirus precautions) go on. … We’re all just trying to get through.” ‘Requiem’ canceled Black Hills Symphony Orchestra and the 72-member Dakota Choral Union have canceled their spring concert “Mozart Requiem” that was scheduled for April 4. Dr. Jon Nero, artistic director for Dakota Choral Union, said he hoped the concert could be rescheduled for the fall. Dakota Choral Union’s cantorei group also had an April concert planned that has been canceled, according to Gina Plooster, vice president of the Dakota Choral Union board. “We are heartbroken that we are unable to perform for you this spring, and are looking forward to seeing you next season! Look for a preview of our 2020-2021 season in the coming weeks. As Frank Sinatra said, “The best is yet to come!” BHSU music director Bruce Knowles said in a March 18 Facebook post announcing the symphony concert cancellation. Meanwhile, although online concerts are not planned, music lovers can visit facebook.com/bhsymphony/ and facebook.com/DakotaChoralUnion for updates.

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