About 60 Elmhurst College dance students are turning their family rooms, driveways, bedrooms and kitchens into the stage on which they’ll perform this year’s final concert.
Typically held in the Mill Theatre, the concert is the finale for all students taking dance in the Spring Term. For seniors minoring in dance, it’s the culminating performance of their time at Elmhurst.
This year, the stay-at-home order brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic led students and faculty to get creative. The result is the Virtual Evening of Dance, a concert that will launch on the Elmhurst College Facebook page at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, the same date and time the show would have gone on at the Mill.
Without a live audience to give cheers and support, the students, their family and friends are planning virtual watch parties so that they all can enjoy the concert at the same time, if not in the same place.
The concert comprises 26 pieces, including several about students’ interpretations of the novel coronavirus itself and its impact on their lives, said Amy Lyn McDonald, head of the dance program. The students will submit recordings of their performances to Assistant Professor of Theatre Rick Arnold, who will edit and connect the recordings into one concert video.
“The response from the students has been incredible, and they’ve been so excited to do it,” McDonald said. “It’s been astounding to see their passion, and the genuine care they’re taking in preparing their pieces. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The virtual dance concert is one of several innovative efforts by performing arts faculty and students at Elmhurst to showcase and share their work in a stay-at-home world.
The music department has been working on a series of recording projects that are being posted on their “Shelter in Place 2020” playlist on YouTube.
The videos include “Groove Elation,” a virtual collaboration between the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble and the Percussion Ensemble that was released last month, on the same day that the ensembles were scheduled to host a joint concert. Assistant Music Professor Mike Pinto put together the video as a way to transition from in-person, rehearsal-based teaching to an online format. He coached the students on home recording strategies, and then mixed the audio and edited the video of their submissions.
Other virtual performances, including by the vocal jazz ensemble Late Night Blues and the saxophone studio, as well as a digital music recital, will be posted soon to the Shelter in Place 2020 page, Pinto said.
Earlier this month, the Department of Theatre and Dance posted a limited-time stream of A Doll’s House, Part Two on Facebook. The performance stream was available from May 1 through May 3, and included a live “talk back” with the cast members on the Zoom meeting platform. “Completely rehearsed and recorded from homes across several states, this production speaks to the compelling need of students to learn, to create, and to thrive,” Director of Theatre Janice Pohl said in an email to Elmhurst students, faculty and staff about the production.
McDonald echoed that sentiment as her dance students get ready for their virtual big night this Saturday.
“It’s so gratifying to see that their excitement hasn’t diminished; they’ve only gotten more tenacious about how we’re going to do this,” she said. “So yes, I’m proud of how beautifully my students dance and how hard they work and how creative they are; but beyond that, I’m even more proud of how this community is there for each other and supports each other. I’m just blown away.”