In light of the recent social distancing mandates and the University of Connecticut’s transition to remote learning, all campus organizations and teams have been affected, including the UConn Dance Company (UDC), a dance team that has been a part of UConn since 2008.
Since the group is unable to meet for their regular practices and rehearsals, or perform at their regular end-of-semester show, the dancers found a creative way to get together and share their passion for dance. Starting tonight, they will be hosting live classes on Instagram as a way for company members, alumni and other students to learn a routine and have fun expressing themselves through dance while following social distancing guidelines.
“The inspiration behind this class came from the fact that so many of us are extremely sad at how the year ended,” Mia Salgado, an eighth-semester psychology major and president of UDC, said. “Our rehearsals during the week are a place to be together, do what we love, and let everything go. We definitely are missing that now more than ever.”
Tonight’s class will be focused on learning a contemporary style combo. According to senior dancer Alex Paulakos, an eighth-semester electrical engineering major, the class will be accessible to all levels of dancers. Paulakos will be teaching the class.
“I love to choreograph in my own time and I love it more to share my choreography with others,” Paulakos said. “I’ve personally seen my studio, and other dance studios, doing these classes online, so it is a great way to connect/share to others on and off the company.”
This is the first time the company has held open classes for students outside of the group, according to Salgado and Paulakos. Salgado credits fellow dancer and Daily Campus Associate Photography Editor Maggie Chafouleas, as well as other e-board members, for the idea.
The girls on the team have a common goal for these lessons: staying connected and finding joy through dance during this otherwise very difficult time.
“All I am expecting out of this is for people to learn how to connect with themselves,” Paulakos said. “Dance is a great way to learn about what your body is capable of and helps one to explore their emotions. I hope that everyone gets something out of this experience, whether personal or connecting with others.”
Salgado agreed, reiterating that since there is no sign-up or registration required, they don’t know how many people exactly will tune in but that “even if one person decided to take the class and it gave them a way to dance during this time, we’d be happy.”
Both girls said they hoped this new platform would allow them to continue these types of classes, even after social distancing ends.
“If this goes well, it could be really cool to continue throughout the summer. I know a lot of UDC members definitely miss dance during that time anyways,” Salgado said.
“I sincerely hope it is continued because I love this company and want to be able to stay connected with the family we’ve created, as well as allowing others to share their creativity with everyone,” Paulakos said.
For both Salgado and Paulakos, this would have been their last semester with the company. Both girls expressed their disappointment at having their senior year cut short and missing their senior showcase. Salgado said she hopes for some closure and a way to honor her fellow seniors when circumstances change, while Paulakos expressed her gratitude for the memories and friends she made along the way.
“We really have created a community… scratch that… a family,” Paulakos said.
Moving forward, the classes will each be taught by a different company member and focus on new combos from a variety of styles, from contemporary to hip-hop to lyrical, according to Salgado and Paulakos.
The company members hope this is the first class of many. As for the importance of dance during social distancing, both girls shared their thoughts.
“Dance is everything during this time. I know a lot of UDC members are being creative and freestyling outside because I know they need it,” Salgado said. “For me, it’s something I’ve been doing every day and I am grateful I have it to get me through the toughest things.”
“Personally, dance has always been a way for me to forget or embrace the situations going on around me or in my life,” Paulakos said. “Being able to share it with others is amazing. In these uncertain times, it has kept me sane when I’ve felt constrained or anxious. This opportunity, teaching others on this type of platform, will be incredible. It will allow us to show others the passion we have for dance and share it with them.”
“It is important that everyone stays connected and acknowledges that we are all in this together,” Salgado said.
The first of the Instagram live classes will be held tonight at 7 p.m. According to the team, there are no sign-ups required. Just download the Instagram application and follow the UConn Dance Company account, @uconndancecompany.
Thumbnail image via @uconndancecompany
Julia Mancini is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org.