Rachael Romano, Grade 11, Staff Writer
In March, the arts industry was left scrambling; artists lost their jobs, pre-professionals questioned their future, and fans were disappointed. When Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a ‘shelter in place’ order, New York City’s creative sector had to choose between creating virtual alternatives or shutting down. Today, many theater and studio doors remain closed, and the situation is unlikely to change.
On March 12th, Broadway announced it would be closing its doors. In October, New York state declared that Broadway’s doors would remain shuttered at least until May 2021. This was heart-breaking news for those working in the industry and fans worldwide. “I love Broadway so much, it was a huge bummer to find out it shut down completely,” said Sophia Orlando, a junior at HSAS and a performing artist. “I felt so bad for the performers that lost work over the closing.”
Aside from Broadway, the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic have penetrated nearly every element of the entertainment industry.
Major entertainment spaces, like Madison Square Garden, Lincoln Center, and the Barclays Center, witnessed a full shutdown. Studio spaces and training centers also shut down following the announcement of the shelter-in-place order. Some smaller studios completely closed, while many larger ones offered virtual instruction, allowing students and artists to train over Zoom.
Artists of all types—musicians, dancers, actors, and instructors—had to transition from going from a large space surrounded by other talented individuals to a virtual environment confined to the parameters of their homes. “A big part of performing is the energy that is transferred between performers and with the audience, so it was difficult to replicate that same experience over a virtual platform,” said Ava Sexton, a junior at HSAS and a musical theater performer.
Despite these challenges, many artists valued the opportunity to hone their performance skills virtually. Artists were also able to take advantage of online resources and free virtual training sessions. “I’m grateful that we could continue teaching and holding virtual classes, despite the unfortunate circumstances,” said Danielle Bailey, a dance instructor in the Bronx. “The staff and students definitely appreciated being able to continue online.”
As studio spaces began opening up again in early fall with social distancing guidelines, virtual training proved to have some hidden benefits. “I think virtual teaching and training made me a better teacher,” said Molly McGee, a dance choreographer, instructor, and performer based in New York. “Clarifying small things became much more of a necessity over Zoom, and now I’m much better at breaking down choreography compared to before.” With regulations now becoming more relaxed, many artists are now able to train socially distanced from others in studio spaces—something that seemed impossible last spring.
Despite reopening, many companies still suffer from the sustained effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In-person enrollment remains low as people still fear going back to studios, especially as cases of Covid-19 continue to rise and flu season looms around the corner. Professionals are not teaching as much as they did before the pandemic, and they are struggling to find jobs elsewhere.
As Covid-19 cases rise throughout New York City, theaters and arenas remain closed, and the performing arts industry fears a return to fully remote training. “I go outside and see people without masks and people gathering in large groups,” said Sexton. “It’s really upsetting, and I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to how things were before.”