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Mary Abowd, Associate Editor
Apr 16, 2020
When social distancing required them to temporarily close their Clintonville studio last month, FluxFlow Dance Project founders Russell Lepley and Filippo Pelacchi quickly pivoted to the new reality.
In March, they moved their robust class offerings online, making them donation-based and accessible to the public. “Dance is an art form that has an actual purpose in a time of crisis,” Lepley said. “We all need something fun right now, something joyful.”
Dancers of all ages and levels can find and join classes seven days a week in creative movement, ballet, jazz, yoga, dance karaoke (check it out!), and more via Facebook Live.
No one will be turned away because of inability to pay. “If somebody is out of work right now, we still want them to be able to take class with us,” Lepley said. So far, most of his studio’s “regulars” have continued to show up, and a healthy dose of newcomers join each week, with total participants at an estimated 200.
The impetus to keep dancing—and to use dance to connect and heal during this unprecedented time—is shared by the hundreds of dancers and dance companies worldwide who are part of the recently launched Dancing Alone Together project. It aggregates dozens of live-streamed classes per day, as well as creative prompts, workshops, and performances for those isolated at home.
For Lepley, the online environment has had some surprising upsides. Facebook Live allows participants to see the teachers, but teachers can’t see them. “People who have been too self-conscious to come in [in person] have tried out our classes online for the first time,” he said, and absolute beginners curious about the next level up can “peek in” to more advanced classes to get a sense for what’s next.
Quarantine has propelled Lepley’s choreographic work in new directions, too. Because the virtual world can accommodate more dancers than his physical studio space, he has now embarked on his largest-scale piece yet. Each week, some 40 adult dancers between the ages of 22 and 74 rehearse together remotely from their homes. (His piece Ursula, which premiered at the Wex in December, was an intimate work for three.)
The dance is about time-traveling space warriors who have lost their way. Their weapons? Mere kitchen utensils.
“They don’t know who they’re battling against or why or how long it’s going to last,” Lepley said. “We’re using this as therapy.”
Take classes with FluxFlow via Facebook Live.
Image of Russell Lepley courtesy of FluxFlow Dance Project
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