Back on the Dance Floor

Updated: Sep 29

By Jennifer Ward



Students rehearsing in a dance studio (via purchase.edu)

Purchase campus has been revived once again by its students’ energy, and this is especially true for the dance conservatory. After all of this time having to overcome insane obstacles presented by the pandemic, these dancers, like other students, have gone through much in order to get where they are today.


After months stuck in quarantine, and almost two years following strict COVID-19 restrictions, on-campus life is finally getting back to normal. Dance majors like Emma Larson are excited to be back in their element.


“It's honestly one of the best feelings I could ever ask for!” Larson said. “The feeling of coming home again and being able to dance with your friends and learn from professors in person is something both professors and students alike have been itching to get back to.”


Purchase dance professor Stephanie Tooman, when questioned about what it's like for students to return to the studio, said, “They are already celebrating. It’s the little things that really excite students about coming back.

“The students were ecstatic that the teacher was able to even touch them in order to get the correct muscle groups working for them,” she continued. “They said it just made such a difference in order for them to understand the movement better.”


Taking dance classes virtually seemed to be a lot more difficult than most people would anticipate. From having to dance in little boxes taped to the floor, to learning choreography through Zoom, these dancers had to adapt dramatically to their surroundings.


“It was difficult because we had to learn off of a screen,” said Carmella Pliego, a dance major. “I also had to dance in my basement and I didn’t have a Marley floor [a rollout vinyl floor specifically for dancing] so I had to dance on carpet. Dance shoes were getting ruined, it was hard to do turns, and it was just very stressful overall.”


Dance progress may have also been affected by online learning. According to Tooman, it is possible that dancers’ progress may have regressed over the time they spent in online classes.


“As dancers, we dance three to six and sometimes even more hours a day,” Tooman said. “Last year some of them were dancing one and a half hours a day. With all these protocols they were not able to quite bring their athleticism up to the level that a dancer usually is.”


Yet many of the dance majors tried their best to remain productive.


“When we first went into quarantine I was doing workouts stretching constantly to just stay in the mode of it,” Pliego said.


Fighting back against all of the challenges they faced seemed to just become the norm. They once again must adapt to a new space, this time one that is returning to normal.


“Once I finally was able to go back to the studio, I felt like my center of gravity was very off because I wasn’t used to having all this space to move,” Larson said. “But after only a few days of being in this space I adapted very quickly and it felt like nothing had changed.”


Going forward into the semester, Purchase appears to be taking the pandemic very seriously, whilst still taking care of its dancers’ needs.


“We have to wear masks for dance,” explained Pliego. “But you're also allowed to leave the room for a hot second if you need to breathe. I haven’t had to do that, but they're taking everything very seriously.”


Larson said, “I definitely think for people it's nice to know there is so much precaution for dance and we don’t have to resort to being virtual.”


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