• Jeanne Marie

Florida's Dance Engagement: Is an Upswing Coming?

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

In May of 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a data set estimating the possible future growth of dance as an occupation. The study estimated that from 2019 to 2029, the employment of dancers and choreographers was to grow 6%.

However, the 2019 study could not predict the Coronavirus and its effect on the dance industry. Looking to the future amid a global health crisis, what can new audiences, dance lovers, and movers expect to see from the dance industry? Will the occupation flourish or crash? Will dance have more audience participation or less with the added use of digital platforms? While only time can tell for sure, exploring four of Florida’s major ballet companies’, Orlando Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Tampa City Ballet, and Sarasota Ballet, and studying history can show some critical factors in determining what to expect.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Florida is one of five states hit the hardest by the Coronavirus. A map displaying the total cases and deaths show Florida with the second-highest number of cases and the third-highest number of deaths in the United States.

How then, are four of Florida’s major ballet companies creating work instead of staying closed like many other prominent companies across the nation?

Orlando Ballet, Tampa City Ballet, and Sarasota Ballet have all either dabbled in creating digital dance or have announced a digital season in replacement of live performance.

Orlando Ballet’s Dance Accelerator program was a remote choreography competition done between the dancers at Orlando Ballet and a panel of judges through Zoom, according to their website.

Tampa City Ballet recently released the trailer to their new short film, 102 Degrees. The film, stated on the company’s site, was in response to COVID-19, and its’ trailer portrayed many of the movers in facemasks.

According to Sarasota Ballet’s page, the company replaced their live performance season with filmed performances their audience can subscribe to and stream from home.

While Miami City Ballet has not yet announced their plans, they have canceled their live performance season and have addressed the public with an announcement that a plan for the coming season will be revealed soon.

Digital dance as a temporary replacement to live performance has become common among Florida’s dance communities as the country attempts to control and overcome the Coronavirus.

History can give another perspective as to whether dance will prosper or wither due to the pandemic’s re-shaping of society.

According to a 2015 study conducted by the National Endowment of the Arts, after a short dip from 2002 to 2008, attendance rates to dance events remained relatively consistent from 2008 through 2012, even as the great recession took place from 2007 to 2009.

A recession, however, is only a potential outcome of a pandemic rather than an equal comparison to the United States’ current health crisis. The Spanish Flu, which took place from 1918-1920, according to a report created by the CDC, could offer more insight.

It was in the 1920s that an upswing in social dance took place, according to a Stanford article, and birthed the modern dance movement, a subject explored in a Smithsonian article. Was it just coincidence that dance, accessible to the public, flourished so soon after the Spanish Flu swept the world?

All of these questions will only be answered as time passes but studies, history, and exploring companies creating alternative ways to engage with audiences give a glimpse as to what that time may reveal.

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