It takes two to tango, even if they’re a thousand miles apart.
Members of the Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company have spent the last several months practicing their moves solo, but while physically apart because of the pandemic, the students have continued to practice and compete via a collaboration app called Discord.
“I knew I wanted the team to keep interacting and having some sort of plan, and after talking to the student officers from all 5Cs, they were the ones who said, ‘Discord is where it is at now,’” says Denise Machin, director of the ballroom dance company and assistant director of the Smith Campus Center. “That’s why we started Discord. They were the ones with the insight into what students need, and what they need is a platform to connect.”
To work around the company members’ being in multiple time zones, Zoom meetings are held on different days at various times so that more people have the opportunity to participate. Other colleges in the ballroom scene are hosting online group classes open to other collegiate dancers, and that’s giving “our students a chance to learn from people outside of our organization and build a community,” Machin says. “It’s really nice that the different campuses are supporting each other during this time.”
There were even opportunities to dance in virtual competitions, including the Zoom Ball on Halloween, where participants uploaded videos of their routines to be judged live—a way for them to safely receive feedback on their dancing. “It’s a difficult time, and I’m really impressed by the resilience of our students,” Machin says. “They are going through a lot and managing a lot, and I’m inspired by them. They are just good at this—they are so good at connecting online and coming up with creative ideas.”