Letting the ideas marinate

12 May 2020

Life as an independent dancer is challenging under normal circumstances. So what’s it like during a pandemic? As part of our “Day in the life” series, May Greenberg shares her experiences.

Born in Jerusalem, Israel, May Greenberg is an independent contemporary dancer and teacher, based in Perth. She talks us through the ways in which the COVID-19 restrictions have shaped her days.

May Greenberg finding the silver linings in dancing at home, but not alone.

COVID-19 has caused my planned independent dance projects to be put on hold indefinitely and has decreased my weekly teaching by over 60%. At the start of the shut-downs and lock-downs, this was a cause of major stress, but over the past weeks, with various announcements of government support, the stress has eased, slightly. Settling into the realisation that saving goals should be flung out the window and just thinking about living hand to mouth has allowed that stress to simmer, somewhat. I’m lucky that a couple of the schools I teach for have moved onto “Zoom” online classes, and I’m extremely grateful for the little employment I still have.

Like many independent dancers working project to project, staying physically and mentally healthy are priorities of mine. It isn’t super hard to chuck on a YouTube fitness video or do an online yoga class to stay physically fit, but at the beginning of this COVID madness I neglected immersing my mind in new skills and staying inspired.

That was until the world wide web opened up its gates and flooded us all with opportunities to take classes with various world-renowned companies and independents artists.

At first, I was over-stimulated and overwhelmed with the options. I gave myself a week to potter around and distract myself with new tasks (eg: learn guitar) until I decided “Ok, let’s give one of these online classes a go.”

I loved it.

Although the absence of physical contact with your fellow dance dancers is a challenge during this time, there is a strange yet wonderful opportunity to connect to each other through the screen. You “virtually” bump into friends from around the world. Isolation has led me to more dance classes than I would have been doing otherwise; a joyous silver lining to this situation.

“This time has taught me that allowing space to find inspiration strengthens my mental health yet also helps to physically connect to new movements and ideas.”

The new ways of operating seem to be leading to new discoveries and habits. I’ve never been a walker, but lately I’m finding myself going for walks, and even trying to run. I’ve enjoyed actually making meals (vegemite on toast used to be a regular lunch option between rehearsals, exercising or teaching). So I walk, make breakfast, and spend a long time and probably too much effort in my food’s presentation.

For my mental health, I’ve been staying creative in ways other than dance. I drew and painted one day from lunchtime until the sun went down, and I felt like merely one hour had passed. Connecting to a sense of flow has not only sparked new forms of creativity, but has allowed me to ponder the importance of finding inspiration in my daily life, and to allow space for new creative processes to enter my mind. Marinating ideas in the brain in order to spark the inception of a project requires time, which we now have in abundance. Allowing my mind focus for prolonged periods of time on various tasks has created space to cultivate ideas and find new inspiration.

Generally, I go with the flow in regards to what I feel like doing each day. Some days I’m extremely energetic and fit in multiple tasks (walk, art, chat to a mate, dance, learn a rap, clean, spend hours on the ATO website, bake cookies) other days I’m lying around looking at puppy videos on YouTube for hours. As a generally active and busy person, this time has taught me to be “ok” with allowing myself to do what I really feel like doing at the time. There’s no point in getting anxious about utilising my time correctly, because I literally have nothing to do, and nowhere to go. When this is all over, I will urge myself to find as much inspiration around me as possible. This time has taught me that allowing space to find inspiration strengthens my mental health yet also helps to physically connect to new movements and ideas.

Read another instalment from our “Day in the life” series, from West Australian Ballet dancer, Claire Voss.

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