From virtual performances to shut down shows, several theaters and artists, especially those relying upon live audiences, have been faring the pandemic to varying degrees of success.
The company will perform their final two shows of the season in a matinee performance at 2 p.m. and an evening show at 7:30 p.m. The two showings will allow more audiences to see the performance while following social distancing guidelines, said Kim Tuttle, executive artistic director of the Dance Alive National Ballet.
The show will feature dancers from Dance Alive National Ballet, a company of about 15, as well as some younger students from Pofahl Studios, the company’s official school. Pofahl Studios was founded by Tuttle’s family in 1956, launching the family’s long-held presence within the Gainesville ballet scene. She remains a co-owner to this day.
In the upcoming performance, company dancers and students will perform Tuttle’s original choreography set to Felix Mendelssohn’s classical chords. The Shakespearean show is set on Midsummer Eve in Athens, and involves mythical characters from kings and queens to fairies and woodland creatures relaying a story of love and adventure.
“I love ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’” Tuttle said. “I love the story. I love the magical quality about it. I love it being done in the spring.”
Tuttle said the ballet company has experienced no known cases of COVID-19 since reopening in June and launching their 2020-2021 season in September.
“I feel like we've dodged every bullet that's been directed,” Tuttle said. “We are so, so, so lucky when there's so many other organizations, so many other businesses that have just had to fold. You know, I mean, we could have folded. We could have folded.”
She said the company has been able to maintain annual traditions like “The Nutcracker” and the “Meet the Dancers” event while making some COVID-19 safety changes. The company’s latest “Nutcracker Under the Stars,” for instance, was performed in an outdoor amphitheater with a limited number of dancers.
“We’re survivors,” Tuttle said.
She also said the company brought on a medical consultant in June who helped establish COVID-19 safety protocols, which she said they followed closely. These protocols included a new air sanitation system installed in the studio, as well as certain procedures for dancers to help manage the flow of the studio.
To further minimize potential spread of COVID-19, Tuttle said there will be no intermission during Saturday’s showings. UF Performing Arts has also released a set of COVID-19 safe attendance guidelines dictating distancing and masking procedures. Supervisors at the Phillips Center said the theater has been successful in adapting to COVID-19 safety protocols and keeping capacity down to about 25%.
Fans of the ballet said they are excited to see live performances returning to the Phillips Center.
Abby Jones, 19, has been dancing in Gainesville for most of her life. A UF exploratory freshman, Jones said she experienced a significant adjustment when she transitioned from dancing at her local studio almost daily to being a college student unable to perform during the pandemic. She said she often misses ballet and maintains her connection to dance through her involvement with UF Danza, a dance organization at the university.
Jones said she understands how important performing is to dancers.
“All of the hard work and months of sweat and tears, and all of it, just kind of accumulates to the performance,” she said. “The performance for me, being on stage, is like what it’s all about, it's my favorite part.”
She said she is happy to see dancers able to persist and perform during the pandemic, and may attend a performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Saturday.
“Performers have proven to be extremely resilient,” Jones said.
Understanding the meticulous work behind the art, she said she has an appreciation for the grace and effortless appearance with which professional dancers work. She said seeing the work of professional dancers like those at Dance Alive National Ballet helps remind her of why she loves the art so much.
Tickets for the show start at $25 with some student discounts offered, and they can be purchased on the UF Performing Arts website.
Contact Valeriya Antonshchuk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @VAntonshchuk.
Valeriya Antonshchuk is a junior telecommunication-news and political science student at the University of Florida. As a news assistant for the Avenue, Valeriya covers Gainesville's entertainment and culture news weekly. Valeriya was originally born in Ukraine and speaks fluent Russian.