Students from McDowell Mountain Elementary School participating in Ballet Arizona’s DanceAZ program. Photo by Tzu-Chia Huang. (Photo taken pre-COVID19 pandemic.)
During the pandemic in 2020, and as it continues on into 2021, Ballet Arizona’s Education and Community Engagement team tackled one main question: how do we continue to stay connected with our local communities? Programs that have become staples around the Valley, such as Student Matinees and Performance Hour, were cancelled to protect the health and safety of both staff and patrons. The loss of these in-person connections were huge hurdles to overcome, but within a few weeks of the shutdown, the team had already shifted its plans and began creating and implementing new virtual programming in the community.
Programs that focus on bringing people together and keeping people moving became the main themes for virtual programming. Read, Dance, Play!, a program for children, and the newly premiered Ballet Arizona Book Club are two programs that have taken center-stage this season. Focused on literacy, movement, and experiencing different facets of dance, these two programs succeed in creating community and bringing dance into homes in a safe way. Movement Moments, a third program focused on creating more virtual resources for teachers, has also gained popularity as a way for teachers to implement five-minute movement breaks into their students’ days to break up the intensity of virtual learning and zoom fatigue.
As the pandemic continues to carry on, the importance of connection with our wider community has become more and more apparent. Members of the Ballet Arizona Book Club have voiced their gratitude and excitement for a chance to connect with friends virtually, old and new. Parents have expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to have their young children interact with other kids in a safe, dance class-like setting.
Fundamentally, the factor of human connection has always existed within ballet. Performances, classes, and other ballet related events have the power to bring people together with common interests. These events foster community, connection, conversation, and inspire relationships among individuals who might never have crossed paths otherwise. During this time, when arts enthusiasts are looking for connection now more than ever, Ballet Arizona has stepped up to provide as many virtual opportunities as possible to continue encouraging these important interactions.
2020 may seem like a loss in many ways, but by keeping the focus on communities – providing support for people and facilitating connections and relationships – Ballet Arizona has been able to continue to keep the spirit of dance alive and well within the community. We look forward to the many ways we will continue to stay connected in 2021!