Cleveland Ballet Does Safety Dance

Photo of Cleveland Ballet dancers rehearsing wearing masks and social distancing [Cleveland Ballet]
Cleveland Ballet dancers rehearsing wearing masks and social distancing. [Cleveland Ballet]
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Cleveland Ballet Artistic Director Gladisa Guadalupe could see something was wrong with her company’s dancers and students after the ballet had to stop meeting in March with to the shutdown of non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company employed Zoom to hold online rehearsals, exercises and classes, but given the particular demands of dance, she could see it wasn’t really working.

“You need to be in a studio in a space that has the proper floor, the proper space, so the dancers can actually work on their bodies and work in the space as well. [At home] you have dancers on kitchen floors, tiles, different rugs and cement,” Guadalupe said.

It wasn’t just the dancers’ fitness and skills that were starting to deteriorate, she said.

“The mental health of these artists had gone down quickly and extremely. Imagine having a bird having their wings cut off. This is what happened to the artist. They went from a space where they can jump and feel the air and move to a small kitchen floor,” Guadalupe said.

In early June, when the state allowed businesses to reopen, Cleveland Ballet wasted little time in bringing back company members and students, but with a heavy emphasis placed on safety.

photo of ballet barre indicating proper social distancing [Cleveland Ballet]

Cleveland Ballet marks space for social distancing. [Cleveland Ballet]

“The first thing that we did, we contacted University Hospitals, which is our partner, to make sure that we had the right things, the right materials and the right way of doing things. We implemented taking your shoes off, taking the temperature of every dancer, cleaning the bars and bathrooms. We have 11,000 square feet, so we have a way of bringing dancers and students at different times and having them leave through a different door at different times. For us, safety was the number one,” Guadalupe said.

Even with the safety restrictions, Guadalupe said she could see an immediate improvement in the physical, mental and emotional health of the dancers, once they returned to their familiar space and began dancing again.

Like many arts organizations, the ballet is struggling financially due to the loss of revenue caused by the cancellation of performances. Guadalupe said the staff is hard at work trying to secure grants and loans, but that it will take time to recover losses.

In addition to rehearsal and classes, the ballet has begun giving performances again. The company will be dancing in the University Hospital atrium on July 24, at noon. Other performances are scheduled for later in the summer.

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