The rug has been violently pulled out from beneath our feet this week, again and again, and again. With every email foreboding another cancellation, every news headline screaming emergency, all the phone calls home managing the logistics of families far apart, and the eerie sense that some experiences may be our last.
When uncertainty has no timeline and the future seems at a standstill, hope is in as short supply as toilet paper these days. But in the depths of my Covid-19 internet scavenger hunt I stumbled upon a reminder that beauty can still exist amidst this haze of disappointment, frustration and anxiety. I found art and artists.
Among the many special moments of my graduating year at Harvard that got abruptly cancelled was my very precious Harvard Dance Project production studio. So much has been cancelled around the world with much higher stakes that writing about one of them seems selfish no matter the deep sense of loss. Then I spotted this. #SunshineSongs has invited students to upload videos of songs, dances and performances they couldn’t showcase because their High School musicals got cancelled. Nothing gave me more joy this week than scrolling through solos, dress rehearsals and dance choreographies that missed their chance on the stage but still held their sparkle. Each story untold during our global lockdown is special, each rehearsal gone vain is precious enough to be relived. Our shows may have missed their opening nights but that doesn’t mean our art will be silenced.
As the undergraduates dealt with the whirlwind instruction to pack up their lives in 4 days, we met for our last in person class on Tuesday. It was heart breaking. A cruel theft of our safe space. Yet, as we sat on the studio floor listening to the production’s original music, we found a reminder for the blessing we still have. The dancers, our instructor and choreographer-Jill- our large-hearted source of comfort and passionate igniter of creativity, the process and the joy it brought to our lives will be forever ours to hold.
Early this semester Jill, while guiding our solos, asked us “who would we call into the room and why”. In the movement that followed, we found refuge, freedom, and a moment to observe and capture beauty-not a blindly rosy one but a real one full of hope, pain, frustration, joy and celebration. As a life-long dancer I have found no easier form of communication or unadulterated joy than movement. So, when everything is bound to a Zoom call my body is itching with frustration. But I wonder if in our test of collective resilience and responsibility, art itself must be our refuge again.
The last show I watched before this worldwide conga line of cancellations was the Boston Ballet’s rEVOLUTION. The program featured three works by pioneering choreographers that pushed classical form forward and changed the course of ballet. During the intermission, I spotted the William Forsythe standing in a corner and mustered the courage to say hello (and embarrassingly melt away as I tried to have a conversation). A week later, Jill conveyed Forsythe’s encouragement and best wishes to our cast as we worked to save our project. Somehow, I can’t help but connect the dots. What if we are at a point where we can change the course of how the world consumes art? We’re not “fathers of American ballet”, but what if we are the seekers and creators of joy?
Jack Whitton defined art as “structured feelings” for we “make something out of who we are”. Tracing the tradition of our society shows that we can once again make something out of the resilience within us. Art will find its way into daylight, strutting through all that social distancing.
So, I end with all the incredible efforts around the world to make art accessible in our homes while we brave through this time together. As the Italians are singing in their balcony: “Andrà tutto bene”, everything will be alright.