Guild dancers make adjustments for pandemic and move ahead with annual recital and concert

Ryan Anderson/Daily Citizen-News

From left, Lyndi Jensen, Julia Tucker, Emma Hackney, Holly Potts, Adia Rann and Grace England, all members of Ballet Dalton's senior company, rehearse last week for this weekend's annual concert and recital. Though the concert and recital for the Creative Arts Guild's dance studio is typically in May, it was pushed back to this Friday and Saturday due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

While the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that closed the Creative Arts Guild to the public from mid-March through May led to the cancellation of numerous events, the Guild's dancers have persevered; though their regular May date for the annual recital and concert wasn't possible, they rescheduled it for this weekend.

The past several months presented "a host of challenges none of us saw coming," but holding these performances are a way to illustrate "all the work and time spent," said Jessie Fincher, the Guild's dance director. Plus, "we all need something to celebrate right now," and these performances will be "beautiful punctuation at the end of the sentence" that has been the latest dance season.

"When we first realized we weren't going to do it on time, we were scared we wouldn't do it at all," said Julia Tucker, a member of Ballet Dalton's senior company. "We've put so much hard work into that, we've been determined to do it one way or another."

"Being in dance, a big part of it is working toward this (finale)," said Emma Hackney, another member of the senior company. "It was a big relief" to reschedule it, rather than cancel, because "it's been a year of preparation."

Adia Rann, 14, who has been dancing with the Guild since age 3, echoed those sentiments.

"We've worked so hard for it that if we didn't do it, it would have felt like all that was wasted," said Rann, a member of the senior company. "It means a lot to have this chance."

"I was looking forward to this for a long time, because it's my last one," said Holly Potts, 18, another member of the senior company who also started dancing with the Guild at age 3. "I'm so glad we're doing it, because if we didn't, I would have been sad."

Friday's performance will be at 5:30 p.m., while Saturday's shows are slated for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The concert will also be live-streamed via the Guild's social media feeds.

The pandemic also necessitated a location change this year, Fincher said. Typically, these performances are in Dalton High School's auditorium, but with that venue off-limits for deep cleaning due to the pandemic, the shows will be at the Guild's Spigel Pavilion on Waugh Street.

"With the music, the dancing and the Sculpture Garden behind them, it will be three layers of art at once," and moving the events to "our own space is actually a relief," Fincher said. "We can control things."

In order to abide by social distancing, tickets have been scaled back, she said. Tickets are limited to four per family unit for Friday and three per family unit for Saturday. More information can be found on the Guild's website, creativeartsguild.org.

Families can sit together, but there will be at least 6 feet of distance between all groups, Fincher said. In addition, the reception that typically follows the Friday night show is being limited to close family members of the dancers.

Social distancing also applies to the dancers themselves, she said. That meant they had to re-choreograph virtually all of their planned routines, "since we can't do lifts, we can't hold hands," etc.

"Kids are resilient, and every child who comes here wants to be here," said Monica Ellison, a teacher and choreographer for the Guild's dance studio. "We've triumphed and won, because they stayed committed."

For junior and senior members of Ballet Dalton, that commitment included taking instruction and practicing via Zoom when the Guild closed this spring.

"It was definitely a change and, at first, pretty difficult," said Lyndi Jensen, a member of the senior company. "You're confined to one spot in the house, so you couldn't do big jumps, but I was very thankful to get to do something even when we couldn't be in the studio."

The hurdles didn't end there, as once they moved back into the studio, they had to remain 6 feet apart, Tucker said. "We're really close — like sisters — so trying to stay 6 feet apart had been a big adjustment."

"This (event) bring us together as a company, but it'll be hard to show our appreciation for one another," she added. "I won't be able to hug my friends," for example.

This year's theme for the annual concert and recital is "20/20 Vision: What do you see?"

While that seems "hilariously ironic now" in the midst of a pandemic, the dance studio actually settled on it back in December, Fincher said. "We created pieces around what we want to see in our world, what we want the world to look like," and that optimistic view is all the more necessary now in the midst of the pandemic.

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