As theaters and performance halls remain shuttered due to COVID-19, a University of South Florida dance professor is exploring new ways to connect the public to the art of movement.
After the transition online this past spring, Andee Scott, associate professor in the School of Theatre and Dance, says she wanted to find a way to keep her students engaged in performance and provide an outlet for local professional dancers struggling during the pandemic. With a research focus on site specific performance and audience engagement, Scott says this “new normal” inspired her to find solutions to an ongoing issue.
“As a choreographer, I always think about space and distance when creating new choreography,” Scott said. “The pandemic really provided an interesting opportunity to apply those same ideas to a different circumstance, since we had to address issues of space and distance not only between the dancers but also between the dancers and the audience.”
Using these ideas, Scott, along with Amanda Sieradzki, adjunct dance professor at the University of Tampa (UT), developed a series of public performances entitled “Dance in the Time of Coronavirus.” The series consisted of six socially distanced episodes across Tampa and St. Petersburg, featuring dance students, instructors and alumni from USF and UT, as well as professional dancers from across the region.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Suarez
Scott says she felt a big responsibility to not only provide opportunities for her students, but also to give local dancers the chance to work during the pandemic. She funded the series through an artist’s grant from the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and provided paid dance positions using her COVID-19 stimulus check.
Each of the six episodes were entirely public performances. Episode 1, “Reverberation,” featured 25 dancers, all physically distanced across three city blocks. Scott developed the choreography to be “durational”, meaning the piece had no traditional beginning or end, but rather was ongoing for one hour. This technique allowed the public audience to view the performance at their individual pace. Scott says pedestrians viewed the dance from across the street and bicyclists and cars traveled by throughout the performance. She says the public aspect of the series was of distinct importance.
“We wanted to create a performance that allowed people to connect with one another,” Scott said. “Especially right now when we’re all feeling so disconnected from each other, we felt this was a great opportunity to bring people together in a safe and physically distanced way.”
After the success of “Reverberation,” Scott and her colleague continued the series, creating a total of six “episodes” of new performance works. Scott presented a nighttime performance, “Reverberation: NightLite,” that utilized vehicle headlights to illuminate the dancers along the sidewalk in front of Tropicana Field. Scott also expanded the concept, developing Episode 6: “Constellation,” as a livestreamed performance, starring dancers from across each time zone in the United States. The performances were then assembled and featured as a video installation at Studio@620 in St. Petersburg.
“This has kind of been a wonderful confluence of circumstances,” Scott said. “Even through everything we’re all dealing with, it definitely feels like it was the right thing at the right moment. And hopefully, we gave the audience something to enjoy during all of this.”
DanceUSF is presenting a version of “Reverberation” as part of its 2020 Fall Dance Concert on Oct. 17 and 18. Performances of “Reverberation”, along with other pieces, will be livestreamed from the USF Tampa campus and are available to the public. For more details, click here.