By: Hollis Plexico ’24 (she/her)

“Atiba Rorie, Dance Music Coordinator at UNCG, and Gamut Dance Company in a Haitian dance class on Davidson’s campus.” Courtesy of Gamut Dance Company.

Eliza Patterson ‘22 and Ellie Lipp ‘22 are no strangers to dance. 

Eliza Patterson ‘22 is the assistant manager of Gamut Dance Company and a member of Break Line Urban (BLU). She began dancing in middle school and has continued to cultivate her dance technique throughout her time in high school and at Davidson. Meanwhile, Ellie Lipp ‘22 is an e-board member for the Dance Ensemble and a member of both BLU and Davidson Bhangra. She began dancing when she was two years old and has since focused on a variety of disciplines, including Irish step dancing, ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary, and ballroom.

Both artists are heavily involved in dance clubs and ensembles on campus, while simultaneously working through a challenging course load. I sat down with them to learn about the ways dance still maintains a presence on campus amidst the added stress of a pandemic.

Dance is an artistic discipline often characterized by its sense of communal, spatial, and bodily awareness. When the pandemic altered life at Davidson in March, many clubs were left in a state of uncertainty that lasted throughout the summer. Patterson recalled, Gamut “didn’t really prepare any type of plan over the summer because we didn’t know what to expect or what would be allowed by the school.” Dancing with large ensembles often requires close proximity and indoor studios –– both luxuries we do not have at this time. COVID-19 has caused many of the dancers on campus to turn to Zoom or outdoor rehearsals.

“Car dance sessions have definitely become more frequent, and virtual dance parties are always fun with friends,” Lipp gleefully mentioned.

Both Ellie and Eliza expressed gratitude for “the ability to dance with [their] teams and friends outside this semester.” They conveyed special thanks to the student wellness team, specifically Sandy Helfgott and Dance Department Chair Alison Bory, for allowing dancers the ability to dance in the studios in pairs –– of course socially distant and with masks.

It comes as no surprise that altering a packed rehearsal schedule of roughly 10 hours per week down to a few outdoor meetings or once a week on Zoom has changed the connection to dance for both Ellie and Eliza.

“My relationship with dance has gone back to the pure joy I felt as a child –– before I began competing. I feel free and happy when I move to music –– dance allows me to feel my emotions and process events unhindered by anxiety, stress, or outside factors. It is just me expressing my own self through movement,” Lipp said.

“I think it’s, you know, somewhat of a release to not be concerned about what other people are doing or what other people are thinking if they’re watching your movement. Zoom provides for greater space to do weird things and to try out things that aren’t necessarily going to be successful on your body or are going to look kind of crazy but are just fun and new,” Patterson reflected.

It is apparent that while this semester is not without its frustrations, dancers are still able to progress and work through the artistic medium they love. Both Patterson and Lipp are looking forward to reconnecting with their dancing communities to see what contributions each dancer’s individual explorations will bring to the table.

“People are growing in different ways right now than they normally would. And I think that will have a real impact on the way that we dance together in the future,” Patterson concluded.

However, “the ability to enter a studio, blast music, and just let go is definitely missed,” Lipp added.

The pandemic has greatly affected dance on Davidson’s campus but has not stopped students from seeking out other ways to connect through dance. From Zoom, to the outdoors, to late-night car dance sessions, dancing remains a poignant aspect of many students’ Davidson experience. While we are all looking forward to the next time the dancers can wow a packed crowd in the Duke Family Performance Hall, it is uplifting to see that the dancers on campus are still able to rehearse and connect to the art they love.

Hollis Plexico ‘24 (she/her) is an intended Communication Studies major from St. Petersburg, FL. She can be reached for comment at hoplexico@davidson.edu