As of today, it has been 32 days since our last West Coast Swing class on Thursday, March 12 in Norwalk, CT. It has taken me a long time to write this post, mostly out of avoidance. I thought I'd share some of my story with you. 

Our Last Class

In the days leading up to our last class, I started to follow reports of the spread of coronavirus. I even felt that our last class had some mitigated risk. I told one elderly student to not attend that class, and I created a protocol for those that attended. This protocol included telling people to wash their hands as they entered the building and then creating a formal line-up to wash hands prior to stepping into the dance studio. The beginner class went well. During the break, students washed their hands after the first class and again right before they re-entered the studio for the intermediate class. It felt like a bittersweet evening, with the knowledge that we would probably be postponing class for 2-4 weeks.

A Dancer with the Coronavirus

I feel fortunate to say that none of the dancers who attended our final class came down with COVID-19. I directly know of one dancer in our community who had symptoms, got tested, and had the coronavirus. When I heard that this student had the virus, who is one of our older attendees, I had to immediately prepare myself for the worst, especially considering how it has affected people over 65 years old. However, this student had a relatively mild case of the coronavirus. I was so impressed with the compassion and kindness of our dance community, who kept in touch with him and even brought food to him. I am happy to say that this student has recovered and is doing well.

 Video Socials on Zoom

Within days of statewide quarantines being recommended, I realized that I was going to have to learn some new tricks. I immediately started testing platforms like FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom. While all of these platforms worked well for one-on-one communication, Zoom was particularly well-suited for group interactions. Zoom also gave the ability to share screens and share audio. By the end of the first week, I was ready to host the first SwingShoes Video Social. This would allow our dancers so socially connect with visual interaction. After our first Video Social, I made it a regular occurrence on the SwingShoes calendar.

Virtual Private Dance Lessons

It might be strange to hear this, but after teaching West Coast Swing for 20 years, I was terrified of teaching a dance lesson using video. I knew that other people had done this, but I always considered myself a hands-on teacher. I was also baffled by how to verbally communicate the nuances of connection. While this self-defeating talk was in my head, I received an email from a couple who wanted to have a private lesson as a way to create a date-night during their quarantine. This request made me step up my game. I prepared a space in my home to do the lesson, and on March 26, I gave my first virtual private lesson. To my surprise, by verbally and physically demonstrating from afar, I found that there were good improvement made by the students. While communicating via computer made teaching challenging, it presented an opportunity to explain movements with conscious clarity. I made an announcement during one of the Video Socials that I was now available for virtual private lessons, and another couple asked me for a lesson to work on their Hustle. Those lessons have been very fulfilling for me, and I hope they were beneficial for the students. If you're interested in a virtual private lesson, here's how to get started.

What Have I been Doing?

I feel very fortunate to have a wonderful family and to be able to share their home. My daughter Charlotte lives with me part time, and she is the light in my life. I have enjoyed homeschooling, as her joy of learning makes her the ideal student. During warmer days, I have been able to take her to our local park, which has a quarter-mile loop, to practice riding her bike. In the last two weeks, my daughter has gone from needing to be held while riding to almost speeding off without me. As she's making the transition to independent riding on a two-wheeler, I am jogging alongside of her. After she bikes, Charlotte likes to kick a soccer ball with me in the large center field. Some of these activities would have been challenging if she had had a full day of school and homework, and so I am very grateful for this time together.

Along with homeschooling and actives with my daughter, I have also maintained a consistent workout schedule. My workouts range from 15-60 minutes long and consist of using a stationary bike, jogging one mile outdoors or indoors, light weightlifting, and stretching. I have found that working out has been healthy on two distinct levels. First, it floods my brain with endorphins, which staves off depression and negative thoughts. Second, it creates an inflammatory response in my body that heightens the body's natural autoimmune response.

In the evenings, I have been enjoying my subscription with Met Opera on Demand, recently watching the entire Ring Cycle by Wagner. The Ring Cycle consists of 4 operas, which total approximately 15 hours. I was completely impressed with the Met's 2011 production. I am looking forward to viewing other operas for which I generally don't have time to see.

What's Next for SwingShoes?

Right now, I am pretty limited in doing what I love—creating a community of dancers who love West Coast Swing, Hustle, Salsa, and Night Club Two Step. I am actively preparing for better times, including creating a schedule for upcoming workshops and the International Rally West Coast Swing. I am keeping an open mind that we might have to make modifications in order to keep people healthy and feeling safe. I recently refunded dancers who had registered for Swingin' Into Spring; however, I hope that we will have an opportunity to galvanize our community at this event either later this year or next.

Keep Dancing

As a final note, keep moving forward! Watching the news can easily make you feel frustrated, scared, and powerless—which is normal. We are, literally, all in this  together. We have all had our share of personal adversity, which has prepared us for this moment. Viruses have existed throughout history and have decimated populations; however, our global communication networks have greatly heightened our awareness and response. Our emotional sensations have helped us stay safe. 

However, sometimes it is beneficial to accept your emotions but change your mood. One of the life coaches whose message I appreciate, Tony Robbins, indicates that in order to shift our moods, we must change our state first. One of the best ways create that mood-shift is by dancing. It's rather difficult to focus on the challenges of life if you put on your favorite song and start dancing. You might not feel like dancing during this time of crisis—but dance anyway. You'll be surprised to feel how quickly your brain responds to music and movement. If you've read this far, it's because you love dance; so, let dance be your happy place. Feel all the feelings and also look for all the silver linings. They are there all the time.