COVID-19 impacts performing arts professionals

To continue practicing their craft, performing artists have had to alter the way they train throughout the past year. Performing artists have begun taking classes and teaching classes through Zoom.


**Masks and ballet…** *After finishing his ballet class, School of Pennsylvania Ballet student Jasper Krikorian takes a photo for Instagram. The Pennsylvania Ballet requires students to wear masks while in the studio.* *Photo reprinted with permission from Jasper Krikorian*

By changing the way they practice, many performing artists have found new ways to refine their art while following COID-19 safety protocols to keep themselves and their communities safe.
Over the past year, many performing artists have not been able to train or perform in person in any capacity. One exception to this is School of Pennsylvania Ballet student Athena Mattingly who attends in-person classes.
“We are doing pods this year,” Mattingly said. “Each day, half of the dancers come, and the other half comes in the next day.”
According to Mattingly, in addition to limited capacity in the studios, all of the barres and equipment are being sanitized before the start of each class and dancers are required to wear masks at all times.
Although Mattingly has been fortunate enough to dance in person, there are still many challenges.
“Dancing in-person has been really challenging,” Mattingly said. “Wearing a mask while dancing is nauseating.”
While Mattingly was able to continue dancing in a studio, many performing artists weren’t as fortunate.
For Broadway performer Ioana Alfonso, this past year has brought much more change. Before her injury, Alfonso was performing in ‘Wicked’ eight times a week. Currently, Alfonso is not able to perform at all since Broadway has been shut down since last March.
Instead of performing, Alfonso has been teaching more classes online. Although online classes can be challenging in many ways, Alfonso believes that there is a silver lining.
“In some ways, it’s been more available to some people,” Alfonso said. “[Now] I have both the time and the ability to do things over the internet.”
Practicing the performing arts through platforms such as Zoom provides performers with a unique set of challenges.
Assistant Principal Viola in the Philadelphia Orchestra Kerri Ryan has been rehearsing and teaching classes through Zoom.
“When you’re teaching music online there are things like tone color and dynamics that are much more difficult to work on,” Ryan said. “I’ve encouraged my students to become better teachers of themselves and to become more aware of those differences themselves at home”
Similarly, Youth Orchestra of Bucks County cellist Lauren McClure has had rehearsals held through Zoom, though the orchestra is making plans to congregate in the near future. According to McClure, playing on Zoom has been difficult for several reasons.
“The most challenging part of playing during the pandemic has been trying to play and record music virtually,” McClure said. “A lot of us don’t have the technology needed to pick up and clearly record ourselves playing, and it’s difficult to play with another person over Zoom.”
Another challenge of practicing online is that performers are in a different environment, and are unable to share it with others like they could in a studio setting.
“I’m really missing the community and the ability to share space with other people. That’s something that you cannot replace over zoom,” Alfonso said. “You really can’t replace the energy of being with your peers, but also the exchange of energy that happens with an audience.”
For Ryan, it has been challenging to perform concerts virtually, without a live audience.
“To me, the completion of the experience of being a musician is getting to share music with other people,” Ryan said. “The loss of the physical audience has been really obvious throughout this past year.”
In addition to the practical complications formed for performing artists in the past year, it’s been challenging for many artists to find work.
According to actor Mark Farell, COVID-19 safety restrictions have lowered the number of opportunities in the entertainment industry.
“It’s pretty hard to find jobs because there’s not a lot of openings due to the restrictions,” Farell said. “The openings that are out there are very small, and they’re usually not for a big production.”
For Farell, it has also been challenging to find acting lessons, so he hasn’t been able to practice with a coach.
Though the pandemic has been quite challenging for performing artists, many have a new outlook on their craft.
“I’ve learned how important music is, not just in my own life, but to share it with the rest of the world,” said McClure.