I recently got an email from J Carter reflecting on the felt experience of missing an online ballet class in the midst of missing. I tried finding a quote to use from J’s email, but even a long one is insufficient. Missing is multilayered and nonlinear. Missing brings the past forward and back again but with traces of the present, marking it fresh – or maybe even new – in some ways. Missing as J’s email suggests is a dance. It moves along familiar paths, bodies, and memories but its action is never “the same” no matter how many times you miss a person, an experience, a dance class, a performance.
What does it mean to miss dance during a pandemic?
I’ve been taking online ballet classes on a regular basis since March yet I am still missing class. There is something about standing at a barre in a studio with familiar and unfamiliar spaces, breathing and moving together, listening to voices and music, reading faces and bodies, feeling the warmth of others, sensing the sun streaming from the windows. I miss the liveliness of ballet class that can’t be replicated on a screen no matter how large. I have holes in my ballet shoes from taking class on my wood floors in a space that is “just” big enough for me to move 3 feet or so. I miss how ballet class bridges the physical and social, bodies and emotions, brains, and senses. Even when I take an online ballet class I still miss dancing.
Recently, another friend commented that she misses watching dance in person:
- experiencing performance spaces
- reading paper program notes
- being part of an audience
- watching, listening, and sensing dance
- discussing dance
- having dance linger
In other words, missing “living in time,” and its ephemerality. Missing dance as it passes. Missing the absence of a pause or rewind button, the flatness of a screen.
So what do we do with this missing?