DAHS Grad Dances to New Normal

Sarah Deminter, Reporter

The coronavirus pandemic is causing college students, like Darya Ellickson, a 2020 DeForest graduate, to find their new normal and make changes in these crazy times. It is particularly challenging for students in the fine arts, like dancers.

Darya is a student at Northern Illinois University and during a two-week shutdown in September, due to an increase of COVID cases; Darya had to go completely virtual. It was difficult for her, she had to navigate dance classes in her dorm, had to be extra cautious in her room; Darya said “just to do like turns in my room I was scared I was gonna hit my knee, and I can’t really jump because of the hardwood.” Dancers are used to dancing on Marley, a type of floor that helps them bounce up and down, without it there could be an injury. Many may not realize how this challenging time is impacting students like Darya, she is expected to still participate to the best of her ability, even in a small room with a floor that ended up giving her shin splints. Dancers can’t just temporarily stop dancing, they can’t risk getting out of shape or losing technique, this is their college major. During the two week shutdown, Darya “didn’t want to learn dance,” staring at a screen all day took a toll on her and many others; based on a survey from the national association NASFAA, 76% of undergraduate students experience a lack of motivation for online learning, Darya says “it just drains you mentally.”

At NIU “mostly anyone who’s not an acting or dance major is online” now because dancing in a dorm room is incredibly difficult, Darya’s dance classes are in-person. Extra precautions are being taken to keep everybody safe, everyone is masked, maintains at least six-foot distance, and ballet bars are sanitized after each use. Even though classes are back in session, dancers still “lose the performance aspect of everything.” In a normal year all of the dancers would get to perform in a dance concert in mid to end of November, but this year each student gets a one-minute solo. The concert would have given these dancers a chance to “be on the stage learning how the stage works, learning how the costumes work with the stage” but now “you find your own costume and do your own makeup.”

COVID is affecting college dancers, like Darya, in an unexpected way. They are in the dance studio every day learning new choreography and they won’t get the chance to perform it, but Darya is making the best of the situation and living her best life, even in these crazy times.