Even weeks of rehearsals under pandemic-imposed restrictions haven’t masked the excitement of Elmhurst University’s dance students as they prepare for their Fall 2020 Evening of Dance.
Traditionally held live in the Mill Theatre as the culminating event of the semester, this fall’s performance will be given virtually, with a video that will debut at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12, on Elmhurst University’s Facebook page.
The 45 students enrolled in dance classes will perform 22 pieces, in styles ranging from ballet to musical theater.
“All of the students have said that it has been thrilling to be able to be back on stage, even if not in front of an audience this time,” says Amy Lyn McDonald, head of the dance program.
The students have been preparing for the performance since the start of the term. It hasn‘t been easy. During all in-person classes and rehearsals, each dancer must wear a face mask the entire time, “which from a breathing, stamina and cardiovascular perspective is not easy,” McDonald says. A grid has been taped out on the studio floor, and dancers must stay within their 9-by-9-foot square. In the technique classes, only half of the students can be in the studio at one time—the others join remotely, to accommodate social distancing.
“Obviously this is not the optimal way to work, but we have figured it out and the students have adapted beautifully,” McDonald says. “Never complaining, these students have risen to the occasion with grace and smiles—and yes, I can see the smiles in their eyes, despite the masks.”
McDonald originally had planned to hold rehearsals almost up to the Dec. 12 concert date. But when COVID-19 cases statewide began to surge, she decided to take all of her classes online after Thanksgiving. That meant recording all of the pieces—complete with stage lighting and costumes—before the Thanksgiving break, and losing 2½ weeks of critical rehearsal time.
Still, the students responded with enthusiasm, happy just to be back in the theater and putting on a show together.
“Their efforts prove that even amid a pandemic, the arts can and must live on,” McDonald says. “The world needs beauty, now more than ever, and I am so proud that these students are sharing theirs with such great generosity.”