The Covid-19 pandemic has caused immense hardship for many in the
dance field. It has been a time of loss, grief, and anxiety, as well as
resilience, creativity, and connection. In the future, there will be great
value in having a record of this time, how people coped, how the dance field
responded, and how the arts endured. This page offers suggestions for how you
can document your experience, as well as information about national or regional
efforts to collect archives of the Covid pandemic. Dance/USA would also love to hear
from you about your archiving
efforts during this time, and the Archiving & Preservation Department can
offer guidance, answer questions, and support your process.
There are advantages to documenting the present while it is happening, especially in a rapidly-changing situation. You can capture details, reactions, and lived experience that you may not remember, or will remember differently, in the future. However, there is also value in retrospective stories, and in taking time and space to process. Do what feels right for you.
Things to keep in mind:
While not focused on dance, this panel from the American Folk Art Museum and the Queens Memory Project, Virtual Insights: Documenting the Present, provides a wealth of ideas and tips for “archiving stories of resilience, hope, mutual aid, and loss” within organizations and communities. The webinar discusses ethical approaches to privacy, consent, mental health and safety in collecting or sharing archives of traumatic events.
Ways to document your experience
The Oral History Association offers a webinar “Oral History at a Distance: Conducting Remote Interviews,” which include advice on software platforms and how to achieve the best results when recording remote interviews.
Developing a plan and protocols before you get started can ensure a successful project:
These resources are drawn from the Society of American Archivists’ Documenting in Times of Crisis: A Resource Kit.
Many institutions across the country have launched collecting, oral history, or other public memory initiatives to create archives documenting the experience of Covid. Here are some dance-specific projects, and extensive lists of other projects which you can search to find something in your region, or that has a relevant subject focus.
Tell us about your archives! Dance/USA would love to hear from you about where you are donating Covid-19 related materials, as well as any questions, concerns, or thoughts you’d like to discuss with the Archiving & Preservation Department. Use this form to tell us what you are doing to document this time, where you are submitting materials, and share any inquiries or insights about the process. Virtual consultations with the Archiving & Preservation Department are a free benefit for Dance/USA Members, and we would be happy to speak with you, answer any questions you may have, and be thought partners in your journey of documenting your experience.
Top: Video collage of seven artists for project "apartTogether." Image courtesy of the Chicago Dance History Project, from the Dancing Under Quarantine Collection.
Project series was created by Joel Styzens during the stress of quarantine. Short description given by Joel: "Project apartTogether was created by 8 artists, strangers seeking creative and emotional connection during unprecedented isolation. Our story reveals that bonds built virtually can be significant and sustaining, encouraging stability and inspiration. / We invite you to enjoy our diverse geographic artistry that shares a united vision of hope. Please share our work as we continue to express that closeness is not always about proximity, and that we can be together even when we are apart." Performers include Joel Styzens, Consuelo Lepauw, Queen, Xin Ying, Rachelle Scott, Erke Roosen, Hannah Brooke
Below: Kait Dessoffy dancing through the streets during quarantine. Video is part of the series "Dance Break" released by Synapse Arts. Image courtesy of the Chicago Dance History Project, from the Dancing Under Quarantine Collection.
Caption from video reads, "Second Sidewalk / An adaptation of Rachel Damon's "Crosswalk Dances" for Synapse Arts' Dance Break 2020 / Music: "Play Song" by John Deley and the 41 Players / Choreography and Performance: Kait Dessoffy (some movement lovingly stolen from Michael Bennett & Bob Avian) / Cinematography: Mags Bouffard / Editing: Kait Dessoffy."