Saint Michael’s dance team offers support, refuge and creative outlet
Excited this semester to be back in action, members concerned that recent uptick in COVID cases might limit expected showcases at coming home games -- but they're hoping for the best, doing what they can within precautions for now, and staying upbeat
After an academic year of mostly remote activities, Saint Michael’s College dance team members say they were ecstatic this semester to be back in the studio, back to a regular schedule, and prepping for their performances during the halftime of the school’s upcoming basketball games.
However, in light of the recent surge of COVID-19 on campus early in November, many students are moving into isolation and some activities are moving to an online platform. After hearing the positivity rate on campus, the team is uncertain and fearful as to what may happen the rest of the semester, but ultimately taking a positive attitude as they hope for the best.
The team looks back on the 2020-2021 year, where they met twice a week on Zoom, and fears having to endure the monotony of a sport over Zoom again.
Sarah Campanella ’22, co-captain of the team, said that news of the recent campus COVID spike caused her to be especially anxious about what the future of the semester will look like for the team. “We’re ready to perform. [When I heard the news], I was getting flashbacks to last year and how hard it was to get into the studio in the gym. I was worried that we’d have all of our hard work done for nothing,” she said, explaining that amidst the uncertainty of the team’s future this year, she has leaned on her teammates for support.
She perceives a strong need for students in such times, including for herself, to find communities that foster peace. Members say the dance team is the community that offers them a relaxing environment to step away from the chaos on campus, to focus their attention elsewhere, and to cultivate relationships that offer support and comfort.
Campanella said that the “new normal” of the team’s dynamic and routine this year has made a significantly positive impact on her after not being able to dance for so long. “I’ve felt really happy with the team this year. I think dance is a really positive thing for my mental health, and to just feel a part of something,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a great effect on all college activities, classes, sports, and extracurriculars such as dance team, and at St. Mike’s, in-person campus activities during the 2020-2021 academic year drastically diminished or paused in similar ways beyond the team, members realize.
After a COVID-19 outbreak on campus in October 2020, the College mandated that the dance team go fully remote until further notice. In response, the team began doing yoga practices and workouts over Zoom, aiming to stay in shape while they could not be in the studio. Co-Captain of the dance team, Ainsley Keating ‘22, describes the team’s in-depth stretching regimen as a meditative aspect of her daily routine. “Taking twenty minutes to just stretch my body and not focus on anything else was honestly so therapeutic,” she said, “[During normal practice before COVID] I always left the studio so energetic and happy.” Keating explained that the team did not have enough time to complete the same stretching routine over Zoom, so they would briefly stretch on their own at the beginning of Zoom instead. “Stretching on Zoom just wasn’t the same,” said Keating.
Keating felt some emotional strain through the year due to a lack of physical activity and creativity in her life. “Not getting that physical activity of dance affected me over time. I didn’t have that space to release my emotions,” said Keating. “It definitely brought some sadness, I mean, dance helps my mental health so much.”
The team members felt solace after getting back into the studio with a regular routine at the start of the semester. Keating said she already felt much better from the moment the team started meeting again.
“This year we had everyone in the studio for auditions which was really rewarding,” said Keating. From the first practice of the semester, members say they have experience a stronger bond between new and old team members, which is something that Keating believes the team missed last year. “It was really hard to build relationships and connections with the new dancers on Zoom,” she said.
Asher Rich ‘24 feels a greater sense of community during this year’s practices compared to his first year being almost entirely on Zoom. “Even though we do have to be separated [to social distance], there’s still an element of unity and community, which is really nice,” said Rich. He looks back on his first year on the team and wishes he could have bonded with the team more while online. “While we were on Zoom, we didn’t get to bond as much,” said Rich, “I felt like I was more being watched while on Zoom, like I was more out of my comfort zone.”
Rich feels much closer to other team members this year, which provides a great sense of comfort during these difficult and unprecedented times. “We all help each other out with things, even if we’re not a captain,” said Rich. Growing up in studio dance classes, Rich felt natural competition between dancers, which led to drama. The Saint Michael’s team, however, is completely free of any of that, said Rich, who adds, “we’re like one big family and I love it.”
The dance team is hopeful that the rest of the semester will go smoothly and that they will be able to continue practices as normal in preparation for their first performance next weekend, on November 20, during the men and women’s basketball games. While college students everywhere are grappling with the difficulty of navigating academics and hobbies amidst a pandemic, these active students say they believe it is crucial that students look to each other for support and community. The dance team is just one example of a Saint Michael’s community that looks to one another for comfort during this time of uncertainty.
To keep up with what the dance team is doing, check out their instagram @smcvt.danceteam and to learn more about participating in dance team, contact Ainsley Keating firstname.lastname@example.org, Sarah Campanella email@example.com, or Faith Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org