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  • Jason Warley

Applauding our Dance Seniors: Man In Motion Pays Tribute to the Class of 2020


Maya with friends from the Bergen County Technical School (Teterboro, NJ)

Back in early March, Molly, 17, and the rest of her competition team from the Gone Dancing studio (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) had just finished performing at their second competition of the season. After that weekend, the team went right back to the studio to prepare for their last regional competition and to start getting ready for their annual dance recital.

For Samantha, 18, and her team from Essential Elements Dance Studio in Hazlet, N.J., they were a week away from their first and favorite competition, Kids Artistic Revue.

“Our last rehearsal together was a real turning point,” she said. “The fire was lit underneath us and we were ready to dance our hearts out on the following weekend.”

And then everything stopped.

The COVID-19 shutdown has impacted each and every one of us in unique and different ways – as workers, as business owners, as families, as parents, as teachers, and as students.

In the dance community, the near-term schedule of conventions, competitions, and end-of-year recitals has given way to online classes, virtual events, individual rehearsing, and customized studio celebrations. Clearly it’s a year that studio owners, dance teachers, parents and younger students will never forget.

But while these unprecedented times are upsetting and disappointing to us all, what about the seniors...those dancers that are in the last year at their studio?

Undoubtedly, they were looking forward to this competition season – and we know how hard they worked all year on their solos. Now they won’t be able to perform them in public nearly as many times as they had hoped.

Frankly, it really sucks!

So Man In Motion would like to pay tribute and give the spotlight to all of the high school seniors from this very special Dance Class of 2020.

Seniors like Molly and Samantha.

And like Brooke, 18, a senior from Not Your Ordinary Dancers in Port Monmouth, N.J. Along with competing with her team at Star Systems and prepping for regionals, Brooke had just finished choreographing two solos. She was “very excited” because it was the first time she had ever choreographed her own solos.

Brooke performing at Deviate Dance

In addition, May 9 would have been their dance recital and the studio’s 20th anniversary.

“I think the biggest difference (being a senior this year) will be not getting to experience all the traditions at our studio,” said Brooke, “and most of all not getting to be together with the rest of our team. As positive as you try to stay, it’s ultimately very sad to miss out on all the fun.”

Keeping in mind that dance teachers and event organizers are all trying to make the best of a difficult situation, imagine the emotional ups and downs over the past two months when this is your senior year.

“Right now it is a really scary and unsure time, and as a result, most of my competitions and conventions have been canceled,” said Maya, 18, a dancer with the MVMT Dance Center in Saddle Brook, N.J. “Due to the (lockdown), I feel as if my hard work and dedication to my craft will not be properly showcased. It is definitely frustrating to be in this predicament, but I always remind myself to stay positive.”

Online Classes Provide New Opportunities

With most dance studios conducting online classes and so many other companies and dance professionals offering virtual events and instruction, there certainly has been no shortage of available opportunities in these new formats. Samantha sees some real advantages to training under these conditions.

“The benefit of having virtual classes is that I can take my technique classes, such as ballet and progressions, every day of the week,” she said. “With all this time on my hands, I can really focus on making sure I take every correction when practicing my competition dances or executing a step in class. I have also found fun in learning tons of new styles I wouldn't normally get the chance to take. Ballroom and hip hop are definitely among my favorite online classes at the moment.”

Making Lasting Memories to Cherish Forever

During difficult times, it seems that in spite of everything there are always those little instances that bring a smile to our face, that make us laugh out loud, and that create memories to hold close that we’ll never forget. And that certainly rings true for all these seniors and what they’re going through right now.

For Brooke, all of her dance teachers and the studio owner made signs, decorated their cars, and surprised their group by doing a “drive by” celebration for each of the seniors. As she said: “It was a very special moment that really made me extra grateful for my studio.”

She added: “And our recital day was also our studio owner’s birthday - so the entire studio got together and went to a big parking lot to surprise her, staying six feet apart, of course. We blasted the music and did what would have been our closing number to our recital. It made everyone extremely happy and was very helpful in lifting all of our spirits.”

Maya decided to follow in her stepdad’s footsteps during the shutdown and so she shaved off all of her hair. She said she already had short hair – and since she wouldn’t be hitting the stage any time soon, she decided to do it on a whim.

During this time at home, Maya has been participating in Zoom discussions as part of her high school classes. Once during a virtual conference, students needed to keep their cameras and microphones on for a discussion in English class.

Maya performing at VIP Dance Competition

“At the same time,” she recalled, “my cat decided it would be a great idea to use the litter box! I kept trying to shoo him away without drawing attention to myself. My teacher didn’t know where the noise was coming from - and I never spoke up to confess that it was me.”

Then there was Molly, who was taking virtual ballet class at home and they were doing jumps: “I didn't think I was being loud at all, until my brother ran up to my room and said, ‘What the heck are you doing? Are you okay?’ And I just kept jumping and said, ‘I'm taking ballet…don't worry about it.’

“Another fun time was when I had a Zoom call with my dance teachers and my two best friends – and we just talked and laughed on the phone for a really long time.”

Molly taking Mia Michaels' class in NYC

Moving Forward Beyond Graduation

Even the future has its uncertainties as seniors across the country prepare for the next phase of their lives. While she plans to make dance her full-time career, Brooke said it’s hard to decide where to go to college with the possibility of not being on campus for fall semester.

Interestingly, both Maya and Samantha will be attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City – where they each plan to continue dancing. And Molly will be attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she will be majoring in dance.

Inspiration Comes Wherever You Look for It

Ultimately, the most effective way to deal with disappointment and loss is to find that inner strength within ourselves and to share the experience with those that are feeling much the same things and help each other whenever possible. That may seem like a tall order for our young people…but don’t sell them short.

“Personally I feel this has helped me grow so much as a dancer,” said Molly. “I have gotten to take so many classes (online) from choreographers I have always dreamed of dancing with. As much as I would rather be at my studio or back on stage, I keep realizing why I love dance so much. So as much as this time is difficult and has changed my year completely, I am learning so much about myself as a dancer.”

“As things progressed, I realized that I need to look on the bright side of things,” said Samantha, “because with a lot of sadness in the world right now, dance is the thing that always keeps me going. I decided to take advantage of this time dancing by myself and get more vulnerable with dance, really going places that I tend to shy away from. It is not the same dancing by myself as it is with my amazing teachers and teammates - but that has just allowed us to get more creative in ways to support each other, which tend to be fun and much needed in times like this.”

Samantha showing off her big achievement at The Dance Xperience

Stand up and cheer for the seniors in the Dance Class of 2020! They all are experiencing similar stories – and they each deserve our recognition, and our support.

Let’s show just how much we care about this very special group of young dancers. You’re invited to create a post, record a video, or leave a comment. Together, we celebrate them! Find us on and Instagram and Facebook and maybe we can help you tell your story.

#DanceSeniors2020


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