Performing Arts During the Pandemic

By Lacy Gragg

Circus Harmony’s virtual show The Balancing Act

Performing arts have had to adapt and create new ways of performing due to the Corona virus. These include social distance shows, virtual shows, and outdoor shows. This has led to different ways of training and communicating as well. I interviewed people from different circuses and other arts about what they are doing to stay safe while still performing during this time. While doing research for this article, I noticed that some places have canceled performances completely. One example is the Kansas ballet. They decided to cancel all of their shows including their annual nutcracker in an effort to keep their audience and performers safe, but they continue to teach classes. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, on the other hand, has been doing outdoor shows at different parks and neighborhoods in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are also offering live digital music broadcasted from their music hall.

I talked to people from two different circuses, Circus Harmony and Fern Street Circus. I also interviewed someone from a visual arts organization to get a broader perspective on what other arts are doing during this time. Circus Harmony is a social circus in St. Louis, Missouri. Fern Street Circus also is a social circus located in San Diego, California. Both offer a wide variety of circus classes including aerial, contortion, and juggling.

ArtScape Lebanon is a visual arts organization in Lebanon, Ohio. They teach art classes and workshops from painting to music journaling. “We offered outdoor classes at our building location with limited class size and mandatory masks” says Kristen who is on the board.  They also have been able to continue to plan art shows with other local organizations following social distancing guidelines. 

From Circus Harmony I interviewed Maddie, a teenage hula hopper and aerialist about their virtual show, The Balancing Act (you can watch the show here). They used zoom calls to communicate. Maddie felt that virtually it was harder to understand instructions in a clear way. She felt like it was also harder to draw attention to points that people wanted to make. She liked being able to re-record because she knew if she were to mess up a trick it was easy to fix by re-recording the video, but she also felt more stressed and rushed. Maddie talks about how performing without a live audience means that there is no feedback. She usually is able to tell by the response from the people watching what they like and don’t like. Then she is able to use this information in her next show and she can take out or add tricks accordingly. Prerecording before the show made it so that she had to predict what the audience would enjoy. Usually Maddie performs hoola hoops and sometimes aerials. Maddie says, “I’ve definitely had to focus on hoola hoops more since I don’t have access to an aerial rig at home.” She has also had more time to work on her juggling which is something she didn’t have much time for before quarantine. One thing she liked about performing this way was that “it challenged everyone to do something new that no one has ever done before.”

From Fern Street Circus, I interviewed Haragni, a contortionist. They performed a virtual show and also communicated through zoom. One of the disadvantages of training virtually that Haragni mentioned was that some of the students experienced internet troubles and some people didn’t have enough room in their house. An upside is that she was able to take more classes because there was no commute; everyone was able to get from one class to another quickly and it worked better around people’s schedules. Haragni talks about the differences that recording and performing without a live audience. She says, “You got to show the audience exactly what you want them to see. Not having a live audience certainly made me less nervous but performing live gives me a different type of energy, and it makes me want to do my skills even better.” With the pandemic she has had more time to focus on her leg and hip flexibility, an area that she feels she should improve. Haragni has also been able to learn how to juggle balls and is now working on juggling clubs. “Usually, I just do strict contortion acts. I used to only take one class a week, so that’s what I chose to focus on. But now, since I’m able to take more classes, I’m doing contortion, juggling and acro/dance. Next show, I’ll hopefully be doing a physical comedy act, fingers crossed.”

If you would like to support any of the organizations mentioned in this article, the links to donate are included below:

Circus Harmony: https://circusharmony.org/support/  

Watch Circus Harmony’s The Balancing Act here

Fern Street Circus: http://www.fernstreetcircus.com/https/coclickandpledgecom/sp/d1/defaultaspxwid93080 

 ArtScape Lebanon: https://www.artscapelebanon.org/

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