By Lyric Hounshell
Since COVID-19's outbreak, Purchase College's conservatories have rethought the way they study the two art forms: acting and dance. Mask mandates, shutdowns, and quarantine affected the way that these actors and dancers pursued their dream, yet further strengthened their determination.
“Being a part of a conservatory first and foremost is fucking dope,” 20-year-old acting major, Myles Windbush-Soules, says. “It’s a life changing experience and when you get that experience and someone says you have to wear a mask it’s like okay; I’ll take the mask because it could be a lot worse."
First year dance major, 19-year-old Gianna Goldey, says she is happy to be a part of a conservatory despite how different it is during a pandemic.
“They [Purchase College faculty and staff] are doing everything they can so that we are able to dance in person alongside amazing dancers and share our talents with each other and it’s great because we haven’t been able to for a while,” she says.
The college is working endlessly to ensure that its students get to “experience each other,” as said by President Milagros (Milly) Peña in a town hall meeting last month. Purchase has taken certain precautions, whether that be enforcing masks be worn in classrooms, placing the actors and dancers in smaller groups and distancing, or random pool testing, to allow these students to learn and grow together as safely as possible.
“They do a lot to smooth out the fact that we’re in masks, because a lot of acting is the face and the mouth and with COVID you have to cover those areas,” Windbush-Soules says.
However, despite the effort, the biggest challenge these students face is the ability to connect with peers both inside and out of class.
Stephen Haley, 18, a first-year dance major at Purchase College, says, “We have these things on, our masks, and I can’t see people’s faces and that makes it a lot harder to memorize people’s names; it makes everything a lot less personable, and you dance less connected.”
“When we’re dancing and trying to connect with each other while moving, it’s harder to make those connections,” 18-year-old dance major, Alana Mai Rice, says. The social aspect is the most difficult part. Still, students have found ways around the challenges that have emerged these past 19 months.
Haley says, “Honestly, I’ve gotten used to it; dancing with a mask on doesn’t bother me; it’s just the connection aspect that’s hard.”
“Usually, we just put emphasis on our eyes and that’s how we connect with people,” says dance major Rice.
“It doesn’t really bother me, but I know people have their concerns,” Windbush-Soules says.
However, the pandemic does not just spur negativity and hardship, “It gives you new obstacles to overcome, and it’s good to have obstacles because if you don't, then you’re stagnant,” says Windbush-Soules.