• Kristyn Burtt

Choreographers & Creatives Get Real About The Impact of COVID-19

Updated: Apr 10


With the self-distancing practice settling in with dancers and choreographers in Los Angeles, many online classes have popped up to keep everyone up on their technique. However, the reality of the situation is also sinking in as cancellations or postponements of performances are the norm.

How are dance companies and business in the L.A. landscape handling this unprecedented situation? Dance Network got the inside scoop from dance makers in Los Angeles about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is affecting them.

Participating in the Q & A is The Lab's Carrie Calkins and Valerie Ramirez, Club Jeté founder Tiffany Billings and Embodiment and RAdiance founder Ruby Abreu. All of the companies, businesses and studios reside in Los Angeles County and are a huge part of the dance industry in Southern California.

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Dance Dish: How have the COVID-19 cancellations affected your work?

Carrie Calkins & Valerie Ramirez: COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our work as a studio, and in our jobs in production and live performance. Our training facility halted classes, which means hundreds of dancers and their instructors are without their normal dance schedules now. We have also had dozens of jobs canceled/postponed, which has made a large financial and emotional impact on our choreographers, dancers, creatives and talent management, who have dedicated so much of their lives to the work of The Lab.   

Rudy Abreu: The COVID-19 pandemic has pretty much put all of us in the industry in a huge slump. Everything I/we have had scheduled for the next 2 months... canceled, which means there are no classes to teach, performances to perform, content to create or money to make. It’s affected the dance community so hard in just a short amount of time, but I’m certain that we will come back and be more prosperous than ever.

Tiffany Billings: Last Wednesday would have been our 93rd Club Jeté show; I have never had to cancel or miss a show in almost nine years. I have dedicated my life to serving our community, and providing a safe place for hundreds of dancers from all over the world, to meet, share and inspire each other every month.  This pandemic has also forced me to cancel all in-person consultations, mentorships, private lessons, styling, photoshoots, and lectures... currently with no incoming revenue generated for independent contractors like myself and the majority of people I work with.

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DD: What steps are you taking in this downtime to prepare for the moment work begins again?

Rudy: If I’m being completely honest... I’m not preparing much. I’m working on things I have already locked in for the summer like Embodiment X RAdiance company show, studio work, classes for Dancerpalooza, etc. I don’t think there is much to prepare since following everything [the] government says MAY end the pandemic, but it is still extremely uncertain. It’s OK to take this time to rejuvenate your brain and soul so the second we come out of this, we feel replenished and ready to pop off like a firecracker of inspiration!

Tiffany: I believe that for every one bad thing that happens in the world, two positive things will come of it. We may not be able to choose directly how this pandemic is playing out, but we do have the power to choose how we deal with it. I rally around the creative minds and support team that I rely on. Research, dance apps, online dance performances and access to online dance history, will only enhance a true artist's work. Reaching out to as many people as possible each day, along with practicing self-care and healing at this time is crucial. Critical thinking right now is of the essence. Now is the time to create new ideas, new movement, new networks, new updates and new trades. 

Carrie & Valerie: During this downtime, we are committed to the growth of some sort every single day. Whether it be connecting with our dancers and creatives and encouraging them to get into a new home routine so they stay grounded and fulfilled, or getting to some of the "I'll get to it later" tasks done that we now have time to accomplish, we are all but sitting still!

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DD: What do you think will be the positive things in the dance industry that will come out of this work shutdown?

Tiffany: Dancers, who return to dance, will have reignited the gratitude they have for both the talent and facility to meet their physical and psychological needs by dancing. Unfortunately, we may lose many talented dancers to alternate career paths, as this hiatus will significantly add to the sacrifices — both financial and physical — that dancers already make when selecting this lifestyle, to begin with.

Currently, everyone in our dance community is feeling a sense of loss… similar, but nowhere near, the grievance I experience as a producer when people do not appreciate their ability to support live performing arts. History and science prove that human beings need the arts for therapy, community belonging, rehabilitation and fulfillment. I certainly believe that live performances, like Jeté, where we can all champion our large extended dance family together, will thrive and be valued at a whole new level when we conquer this beast. I am looking forward to planning a massive family reunion at the Jeté house in the near future — we never know when that opportunity may be taken from us again.

Rudy: I believe we are already seeing some of the pros who will arise from this crisis. As a community, we are more connected than ever, dancers from all over the world are being able to take classes from choreographers they could only dream to train with. On an even larger scale, we are learning to appreciate some of the things we may be taking advantage of — like being able to physically train your body, take classes with friends and creating authentic connections with other aspiring artists.

Carrie & Valerie: No doubt the work shutdown will continue to have a grave impact on the dance industry as a whole. That being said, some of the most innovative moments in our history have come out of a time of crisis or despair and we need to make the most of our new normal. The beautiful thing is that within just a week of it all happening in LA, we have seen an emergence of teaching and sharing online, of a fond reminiscing of projects from the past and a deep look inward resulting in a strong sense of community and gratitude. These are things that fuel everyone to look out for each other and reminding us that we have the power — and the responsibility — to keep moving forward.


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