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Masked moves and ballet in the bath: a year of digital dance

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March 16, 2021 at 02:00PM

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With stages closed, dancers have thrived on Instagram and TikTok, given innovative online performances and found a huge new audience

The first time I cried watching someone dance in their living room was in April last year. A few weeks into the first lockdown, unnerved by sudden confinement, there was ballerina Céline Gittens on my laptop screen, bourréeing past a pot plant. Then in a different living room, cellist António Novais drawing out a Saint-Saëns melody, and in another house, pianist Jonathan Higgins, all deeply engrossed in this re-creation of The Dying Swan, music crossing the divide.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the dance that appeared online was all about trying to connect. That’s what was moving about Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Swan, or the Alvin Ailey company’s dancers performing Revelations in their New York apartments, or the companies doing their ritual daily class over Zoom and inviting us to watch or join in. It was a way of witnessing people apart but moving in harmony, absorbed in the same actions, finding a rhythm together, closing the distance.

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