What are the major dance trends we can expect to see post pandemic? Will it be my wish: a revival of lyrical dance? Will it be other expressive dance forms such as dance for social justice? I asked several studio owners, teachers, and college instructors what they see coming. They all shared insightful thoughts with me. But I couldn’t see the common thread until I spoke with Kaitlin Webster – dancer, teacher and artist who lives in Chicago. Then everything came into focus.
As clear as it seems to me, I don’t have a crystal ball. No doubt, what I see coming is partially influenced by my hopes for the future. As John Lennon once sang: “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Imagine, for a moment, that what is coming can be truly life-changing.
Classes emphasizing self-expression are on the horizon.
I believe that the next big thing in dance is not one single “thing”. Rather, it is the birth of a new paradigm. It is not a trend that will come and go. It is a hard reset to everything we have known in the dance world. The old dance structures are being dismantled, according to Kaitlin. What is rising from the ashes will not be a cookie cutter copy of what was. Kaitlin is opening a new studio “Incite Dance Center” in Chicago. This studio is an ideal example of a different way of doing business that is emerging from the wreckage of the Pandemic.
What are the ingredients of this new vision for dance?
1. First and foremost, it is the creation of a safer, happier space for dancers.
It is about making dancers feel a sense of belonging by providing a setting where everyone is accepted for who they are. It’s about committing to anti-racism practices, anti-discrimination of any kind, and inviting all to be a part of it.
Here are a few examples.
- Assistant Professor of Dance at SUNY Fredonia, Anthony Alterio, puts it this way: “For dance to survive it must be inclusive, diverse and accessible”. He questions the hierarchical system of academia and calls for an end to the “internalized homophobia” he has encountered, as well as the judgments based on body type that have permeated dance training. Throughout his career, Anthony has focused on changing the dance world. He is on the vanguard of a revolution in higher education.
- Bernadette Alverio, owner of the Movement Lab in Santa Rosa, California, envisions “team and confidence building activities and exercises to develop trust” as an essential element of classes in her studio post pandemic. She feels it will take time for dancers to feel safe. For her, this will be the priority. In terms of performances, she wants to “give dancers an opportunity to ‘speak’ and give everyone some soul food.” For her audience, she wants to “feed the soul”. Bernadette’s studio has always been a haven of inclusivity. That emphasis will continue as she implements fresh ideas to take her moral support of dancers to a higher level.
- Incite Dance Center will be offering wellness classes as a regular part of their curriculum, with the aim of supporting dancers emotionally by giving them a setting where they can process whatever issues come up for them. This is part of Kaitlin’s effort to assure a sense of belonging and acceptance of dancers for who they are – ingredients that she says were severely lacking in her own training. Kaitlin believes this idea is going to “blow up and catch on everywhere”.
The technological developments of the pandemic are here to stay. For example, the owner of Motion Dance Center in Denver, dance artist and sought after teacher Helen Estrella, believes that in the studio world, concept dance videos (i.e. videos with a theme or storyline) will continue alongside live performances because Screendance is an art form that everyone is currently excited about. Others echoed this belief.
3. Site-specific performance.
During the pandemic, thousands delved into site-specific performance through screendance. Site-Specific Dance was first explored by post-modern choreographers and in recent years has resurfaced as a trend. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that dance performance in locations other than theatres exploded. I believe the urge to perform in non-traditional spaces will continue, even after the pandemic, because so many dancers have discovered the secret already known to all those who previously embraced site-specific performance: The world is your stage!
4. All dancers as innovators.
Dancers have discovered their creative potential through online outlets and will continue to want to express themselves, so savvy studio owners will introduce programs to enhance these efforts. An example is Incite Dance Center’s upcoming “Innovator’s Program” for young dancers, focused on embracing participants for who they are.
We need a major sea change to the systems of support for dance as an art form.
5. Taking care of dance artists.
Jess Hendricks, rock star teacher and choreographer who has inspired thousands of dancers around the world, does not want to see things go back to the “old normal” post pandemic. She believes that we need a major sea change to the systems of support for dance as an art form. She feels we need to re-examine our attitudes as a society toward dance as a performing art. For Jess, dance has become insular. “We are in our own bubble – it happens at the educational level where dance is separated from other disciplines”. Jess believes that, of all the performing arts, "dance is the least financially supported and receives little acknowledgement for its global contribution and the beauty it provides." If there is to be a new dance paradigm, this ingredient belongs in the mix.
6. Expressive Dance
While the new paradigm may not literally include the reboot of Lyrical Dance I envision, expressions of inner thoughts and feelings go hand-in-hand with all the ingredients above. Early in my research I ran across a class blending writing and dance, “Dance Your Words” taught by Riley Bartlett at Block 1750 in Boulder, Colorado. For me, this class confirms my idea that classes emphasizing self-expression are on the horizon. I also saw a recent thread in a Facebook group in which college instructors shared courses offered at their schools focused on dance for social justice, under various titles. This movement is growing, fueled by events of the past year. It certainly fits into this category and could be part of a recipe for change.
From my perspective, all of this adds up to a full-blown Renaissance. When I first thought about “the next big thing” I was wondering what would be “popular” and instead I found something much more important. I’m reminded of the song from West Side Story, “Something’s Coming”, that always gave me goosebumps. Something is around the corner and it is going to alter our lives in ways we cannot even imagine.