Dancing Queens of Quarantine

By Kaitlyn Kelley

As courses at Youngstown State University continue remotely through the COVID-19 pandemic, some students expressed concern about the move from the physical to the virtual world. 

YSU students who are passionate about dancing, whether it’s for their major or a hobby, are not letting these changes prevent them from getting on the dance floor — even if that means dancing in their bedroom.

Erica Hays, a junior dance management major, is one of these students who feels like her ability to learn and dance has been affected by the transition.

“As a fair amount of my classes have been moved online, I must now dance in the space I have and can find. I can’t go to a studio and dance with my teachers and friends,” she said. “I think in the end, it will limit my ability to learn this semester because I cannot be in the studio learning from my peers as well as my teachers.”

Hays also expressed concern for the senior dance management majors who have lost the ability to present their senior projects the way they had envisioned.

But the change in classes isn’t the only aspect that has taken a toll on these students. Those who seek to gain experience by working at local dance studios can’t report to work since they are nonessential businesses.

Francesca Byrne, a sophomore advertising and public relations major, works at the Boardman Performing Arts Center at Boardman High School as the lead hip-hop coordinator and choreographer. 

Hays also works in dance studios, interning at the JCC School of Dance in Youngstown and choreographing for Stacey’s Dance Studio in Marietta, Ohio.

“Through the dance studio that I work at, we were in the midst of our competition season,” Byrne said. “We spent months of training, cleaning and perfecting all of our routines that we had expensive professional choreographers come in to set. “

Byrne believes her dance team was having one of its best seasons before the pandemic. However, she is still able to work with her mentors and students virtually, similarly to how YSU classes are functioning.

Although many performances were cancelled after hours of hard work, students remain as optimistic as possible.

Gillian Pirone, a freshman middle school education major, is a member of the YSU Dance Ensemble and YSU Black Ice.

“I’ve been managing to dance still,” she said. “I’ve been doing improv and finding online ballet classes to do. I feel more well rested physically and mentally and less stressed than usual.”

Byrne has also been learning more challenging freestyle than she normally would have time to do before the semester moved online. She is using the lack of peer review to start critiquing herself. 

But Byrne makes sure to post her dance videos to social media so others can still see her work.

“With many negatives circulating throughout general society today in this terrible time of fear and isolation, I see a lot of positives in the dance community at this time,” she said. “I am so happy I am able to utilize technology and teach my own students throughout every week and keep training as well as being able to connect and contact my mentors from across the country to help me continue to grow as a performer and artist.”

COVID-19 may have taken opportunities from students, but dancers at YSU refuse to let the pandemic break their spirit, and they continue to pursue what they love.

“Art, in general, is something that I believe is truly special. It breaks boundaries, defies science in ways and connects people,” Byrne said. “In a time of isolation, this art and community never fails to bring me back home and feel safe again.”