Winter 2021 In Dance

sometimes inspiring stories about making lemonade out of lemons. I am getting to the point, I promise. I have been living through the pan- demic so far mostly unscathed: roof over head, food in the fridge, self and family healthy and safe, jobs retained and even expanded, access to stable internet. For the slings and arrows of my particular experience, I have my TinyLetter to vent. So if I were one of my students, I’m not sure I’d answer the COVID-19 Common App prompt. gram that didn’t require rings, paral- lel bars, and 40-square-foot sprung floor. Another went grocery shop- ping for the most at-risk members in their community. A third offered free online tutoring in Calculus. These are good stories, important stories, by SIMA BELMAR OUT OF PRACTICE And yet, I’ve given myself a version of it for dance. How has dance been affected by COVID-19? How does one even talk about the year dance had? And what do I even mean by “dance”? Dance as concept? Dance as practice? Dance as community? If it were a mul- tiple choice exam rather than an essay question, I’d choose all of the above. Like an obituary for a famous per- son, I’m writing this before 2020 is dead. It’s early December. The rains have finally come to the Bay Area. My kids and I have been marveling at cloud formations and hunting rain- bows. Biden won the election and there has been dancing in the streets. T**** has yet to concede. Republi- cans are claiming voter fraud where convenient for them to do so. Over 72 million people thought T**** was great or good enough or the best choice, revealing the tentacular reach of ignorance and hatred and fear and capitalism run amok. The pandemic is enjoying a resurgence, ravaging populations across the nation and the world, hitting BIPOC communities hardest. Nearly 300 thousand Amer- icans dead; over 1.5 million glob- ally. Still, people gallivant masklessly O ne of my jobs is college admissions essay coach. The most popular platform for college admissions is called the Common Application. Over 900 colleges and uni- versities use the Common App as their gateway for admission. The Common App requires the usual stuff: personal data, standardized test scores, classes and grades, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. Students are asked to answer one of seven prompts; they include questions about back- ground, identity, interests, obstacles faced and overcome, beliefs challenged, problems solved, feats accomplished, the sort of things most 17-to-18-year-olds have never spent a moment reflecting on. INPRACTICE In 2020, the Common App added a special, optional COVID-19 essay question (250 words): “Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.” When I am advising students on how best to answer this prompt, there’s no time to deconstruct the notion that “colleges,” like “states” and “corporations,” have feelings. Instead I get straight to the point: unless you or someone close to you has gotten sick, or you’ve lost some- one, or a parent has lost a job or a home, or you lack the space and resources necessary for a successful remote learning experience, you don’t have to answer the question. No one wants to hear you whine about having had your internship at a startup, or Mathletes competition, or summer STEM camp canceled. Everything important to everyone has been canceled. But some students really want to answer the question because they have been terrorized by the well- known fact that most if not all other optional supplemental essay questions posed by specific, usually “elite” col- leges, are not actually optional. If you have nothing to say about how you single-handedly saved your local park, or made it into the Olym- pic trials for curling, or invented an app that cures diabetes, why are you applying to Harvard, chump? These students can’t let a prompt remain unanswered; it would be blasphemy. In those cases, I tell my students to write about how they pivoted in the face of shelter-in-place. One student, a competitive gymnast, designed an online training pro-


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In Dance | May 2014 |

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