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Midvale Journal

The beat goes on: students keep dancing at home during shutdown

Jun 15, 2020 11:33AM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

A teen kneels, alone in her backyard, which during this time of social distancing has become her al fresco dance studio. She begins to move her head from side to side. Then her arms. Next, with one fluid motion she slides to the grass and extends her legs. 

Normally, for this teen most of these moves would be practiced on the hardwood floors of Body Logic Dance Academy, 783 E. Fort Union Blvd. in Midvale, where she is a student. But for the past two months the students did all their learning at home and in their backyards. 

This student in particular was part of the junior level class for teens ages 15 to 17. For the first time ever, this age group was learning how to do choreography—how to design their own recital pieces. 

“We were just kind of getting started,” said Melanie Ewell, the instructor for the class and co-founder of the academy. “We were creating a vocabulary, learning how to use energy and break down elements of the dance.”

Ewell had been thinking about teaching a class like this for years.

“I got so excited to have them create their own dance forms and use dance as an art form, not for competition,” Ewell said.

The students were given the topic of climate change to base their dances on. “They journaled about the things they’re concerned about, then whittled it down to four or five words,” Ewell said. “Then they created movement from those words.”

From the end of March to the middle of May, the students filmed the choreography they created at home and shared it with the others.

“It’s this huge adjustment that no one planned for,” Ewell said. “Dance is a craft that we think you have to learn hands-on in the classroom. It’s a challenge to have to change that. We had no choice, and it turns out (students) can learn from a video if they have to. But I don’t think any of us really love it. We miss our kids and that personal interaction.”

The academy, which offers instruction for students ages 3 and up, tried recording lessons for students to watch on their own. When that wasn’t effective, the teachers switched to online meeting software that allowed the students to see them in real time.

“We’ve lost clients for sure,” Ewell said. “Parents are online too much and can’t do it all. We hope we can get through this and build our clientele back up.”

In 2009, graduates from the Utah Valley University dance program formed the Body Logic Dance Company. The vision of the nonprofit company is to give dancers an opportunity to continue their education and immerse themselves in dance. Auditions are held yearly.

Five years later, Ewell and Serena Webb, one of the company’s original founders, created the Body Logic Dance Academy. The school offers classes for all ages and abilities.

The company has performed at a number of venues throughout the valley. But they look forward to the completion of the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center in Taylorsville. 

“We try to stay in (Midvale), but dance venues are limited,” Ewell said. “(The company) is excited to be part of the Mid-Valley plans and hope to make that our home in January 2021.”

The academy students, the majority of which live in Midvale, normally perform their recital pieces at Midvale Junior High.

“We don’t know what (this year’s) recital will be like,” Ewell said. “It will definitely be a memory maker.”

The academy reopened the studio to students on May 18. “We’re following really strict rules and learning to teach in masks and gloves,” Ewell said. “There’s good and bad. We’re asking parents not to stay during classes, which will help kids have more independence.”

Even with the changes, students and teachers were eager to get back to the studio.

“Dance is a very valuable for art and life,” Ewell said. “Hopefully, people are out there doing some kind of movement.”