As spring semester came to a close and a summer of being confined indoors began, dance studios everywhere had to face the tough decision of keeping their doors sealed.
But Rebecca Lemme, the co-coordinator of the Bachelor of Fine Arts dance program at Long Beach State, couldn’t let her students down.
A virtual dance intensive and performance was not something Lemme had planned for her studio, Acts of Matter, but with the rising cases of coronavirus, she moved forward without a second thought.
“So much of what made [the participants], them, had gotten stripped away that this sort of brought them back to what it is they love to do,” Lemme said. “It really gave them an outlet.”
For eight hours a day, over the course of three days, the intensive focused on modern, contemporary and movement based choreography. The final performance was held via Zoom on July 12, with over 100 virtual audience members, live music and a cast of 23 dancers, half of which were CSULB students and alumni.
At first, Lemme battled with the idea of moving forward or canceling the show because this was Acts of Matter’s first ever intensive and performance. Despite the challenge, Lemme continued on.
“It definitely felt risky and I was nervous about it,” Lemme said. “But once we dove into the process it really became clear what was going to work and what wasn’t.”
Lemme explained that she tried not to fight too many uphill battles throughout the creative process. She collaborated with all of her students to see what would work and what they could do differently that they couldn’t do on stage.
Zoom’s webinar platform allowed only dancers on the screen, rather than dancers and audience members. This helped the performers articulate the detail of up close hand movements, lower body movements, facial expressions and more.
The whole performance and intensive was a two way creative process that both Lemme and her students needed. Everyone involved played a part and had an outlet to express themselves in the way they know best.
“I didn’t realize how much I needed this until we did it,” Lemme said. “I truly didn’t realize how much I needed this outlet, not only of dancing, but of performing and creating something.”
Many of the dancers felt the same way.
Derrick Paris, a fourth-year dance major, explained that if it wasn’t for Lemme offering
him a scholarship for the intensive, he wouldn’t have been able to dance and perform.
“I, like so many other people right now, are facing financial hardships and I think she [Lemme] knew how much I wanted to do it,” Paris said. “She definitely knows how much dance means to me and I’m just so grateful.”
Paris continued on saying that this intensive woke him out of a depressive state that he has been stuck in and participating in this brought so much joy to him that he had missed out on.
Danielle Burdick, a fourth-year dance major, had similar feelings pent up inside of her.
Until this project, Burdick had not been able to dance. She said that the process was a lot more emotional than she had anticipated because of that.
“Throughout the whole process I was actually experiencing a lot of anxiety and really intense dreams,” Burdick said. “It just felt like a huge release.”
Acts of Matter’s performance allowed every participant to feel emotion through dancing and experience the creative process that goes along with it.
Participants took this performance as an opportunity to create, connect with people in their community and learn what the new age of dance could look like.
As CSULB stays virtual through spring semester, Lemme plans to utilize this virtual performance technique at both her studio and on campus. The dance department will be doing a virtual production this fall, with a mix of live Zoom performances and pre-recorded dances.
“I think we will still see a lot of creativity coming out of the department,” Lemme said. “It just won’t be happening in our theatre.”