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Jacksonville Dance Theater explains dance’s role during the time of coronavirus

Siddie Friar, Reporter

In these ‘strange and unprecedented’ times, dancing may be the last thing on your mind. However, the folks at the non-profit Jacksonville Dance Theatre (JDT) think that dance, or creative movement, deserves more attention. 

“It’s a great time to keep moving and keep connected,” Artistic Director and Co-Founder of JDT, Rebecca Levy said. “Dance is important all of the time, but especially now. Dance can help communicate the human condition in ways that no other art form can.” 

For Levy, dance and movement helps her ground in the moment, positively affecting her mood and her general outlook on life. There is a growing body of scientific research to back her personal experiences up. Several studies point to dance movement therapy and dance as effective for increasing quality of life and decreasing clinical symptoms like depression and anxiety.  

Photo by Shana Skelton. Rebecca Levy during a recent photoshoot. For Levy, dance is an important part of everyday life. 

Since launching in 2012, JDT has built a name for itself as a serious dance company that pays its performers, puts on countless performances locally, regionally and even internationally, and has a robust outreach program. 

Two of their shining models for dance education and outreach are Creative Dance in Schools (CDIS) and Serving Survivors, a collaboration with Rethreaded

Through the CDIS initiative, JDT “teaches the basis of creative dance while finding cross-curricular connections.” Their goal is “to provide children with the experience of creative bodily expression as well as helping teachers find ways to integrate movement in their everyday lesson plans. Basing this program in creative dance rather than codified technique helps illicit choice, respect, and a pique of interest in dance as an art form.” 

The Serving Survivors project provides dance therapy for survivors of human trafficking. From the JDT website, “utilizing the curative, body-awareness building aspects of dance and the movement arts, JDT executes meaningful, trauma-informed care workshops to women empowered and employed by Rethreaded – a local organization  providing second chances at life through employment for survivors of human trafficking in Jacksonville, Florida.”

“We were really doing a lot in and for the community when the pandemic struck,” Levy said, “Now we are technically on our summer hiatus but feel it’s important to stay connected with each other.” 

To that end, the company is offering free dance classes twice a week. They have a YouTube channel with fun videos for all skill levels and are launching a ‘Quaren Question’ program for their dancers to help spark creativity as well as fostering intellectual and emotional support for one another. 

“Dance is an embodied pursuit,” Levy said. “Ultimately, that means being in a studio with other bodies and I so long to get back to that.” 

Photo by Katherine Richardson. Members of Jacksonville Dance Theatre Company at a past performance.

No one really knows when that may be able to happen. In the meantime, anyone interested in taking classes is invited to reach out via the JDT website, classes are free but advanced so potential students will be screened to ensure the class is appropriate for them. The company plans to continue adding fun YouTube tutorials and are plotting for in-person performances this fall, COVID pending. 

“We aren’t going anywhere and we can’t wait to get back into the studio,” Levy said. “Until then we will keep making art however we can and continue to serve our community to the best of our ability.”

___

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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