Butler Ballet faces performing challenges due to COVID-19

From Swan Lake to Showcase, Butler Dance Department handles rise in COVID-19 cases. Photo by Madeleine Hall.

CODY ESTEP | STAFF REPORTER | cpestep@butler.edu

Swan Lake canceled for a second time

COVID-19 strikes again. Near the end of March, a “small number” of Butler Ballet performers tested positive for COVID-19, according to the COVID-19 Campus Update email sent by Butler on April 13. The number of students in quarantine required the department’s to postpone Swan Lake this spring, once again, from April 23 to April 26.

Many students in the department felt that Butler Ballet did everything in their power to limit the COVID-19 exposure. However, dancing in the same room for prolonged measures of time causes the risk of COVID-19 to remain. Ultimately, COVID-19 restrictions prevented Butler Ballet from putting on a full-fledged production of Swan Lake in spring of this year, 2021.Tristan Filsinger, a sophomore dance performance major, said the experience made him think deeper about the reality of performing in a pandemic.

“Despite all of our measures,” Filsinger said. “We do have to face the fact that we are dancing in enclosed spaces. And that has a certain level of risk.”

Butler Dance Department tries again

Similar to last year, Butler Ballet’s plans for their production of Swan Lake were once again foiled. But rather than cancel the entire performance, the dance department reimagined the show’s form as a showcase-style production, instead of a full ballet. The showcase features scenes from many popular ballets including “Le Corsaire,” “Coppelia,” “Cinderella,” “Ramonda,” “Giselle” and “The Firebird.”

The dance department took several precautions to keep students safe, at the expense of the performance. Larry Attaway, the executive artistic director for Butler Ballet as well as the chair of the department of dance, said the department raced to handle the situation.

“Our first response was to get everyone [in the department] tested,” Attaway said. “Then, as a department, we took a day off to make sure everyone would be safe.”

The dance department was forced to act quickly in order to create a secondary plan. The faculty were expectant of COVID-19-related challenges and acted to avoid any performance cancellations. Understudies were assigned for most of the roles from the beginning, in anticipation of possible quarantine orders. Attaway described how the department reacted.

“It sounds cheesy but the show must go on,” Attaway said. “With this show, everyone was challenged greatly. The students and faculty have certainly stepped up to make our spring show a reality.”

New 2021 Ballet showcase

Although the new compound show organization was presented as a solution, it came with its own unique challenges as well. Bella Schwartz, a first-year dance performance major, said preparing a show with two different casts was another challenge of dancing during a pandemic.

“That’s a little weird because we’re like, planning for like two ways to do a show,” Schwartz said. “We’re planning on people being able to get out of quarantine and come into the show, or we have a backup plan for if they’re still in quarantine.”

Although the change was sudden and unusual, many students were ready and excited to embrace it. Filsinger spoke about the dance department’s decision.

“Well, to be honest, I actually like this version better because not only do I think it gives more of a flavor to the performance, I also think it gives the audience a huge perspective on what ballet really is,” Filsinger said. “Because there’s a whole lot more than just Swan Lake and the Nutcracker.”

Nevertheless, through all of the challenges the Butler Ballet has still been able to produce live shows safely and to the same level of quality as previous years. On April 26, at 7:30 p.m., Butler Ballet will livestream its spring ballet showcase on the Butler Arts and Events Center website.

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