“Lines of Connection”
by Chloe Webster
When Covid hit in March of 2020, it interrupted my life in ways that I was unable to process until recently. Between unfinished projects and performances, canceled graduations, intense isolation, and not getting to say goodbye to years of my life, I found myself far more in need of art than ever before. I so badly wanted to fill the hole left inside of me from the lack of closure I felt that year. That year the dance world tried all we could to fill that hole left in us. We would get in our dining rooms, and take zoom classes; in my yard, I would put on tennis shoes and practice grande allegro, praying not to get shin splints; and I drug out a huge piece of wood to explore my old tap dancing skills. 2020 was my last year of middle school, and after that was going to be a huge turning point in my life. I was to say goodbye to the school I had been going to and the friends I had made there since kindergarten, and I would graduate from the UNCSA Preparatory Dance school and move into the UNCSA HS Ballet program.
Leading up to the dreaded date of March 13, the Prep program had been putting together a new ballet choreographed by Alberto Blanco. This ballet was going to be my final performance with the program I had been in for 6 years. Many of my friends and I who were graduating that year were set to have solos and exciting roles in the showcase, and we had never been more excited. For years we watched people have their shining moments on stage during their graduation performance, and this was finally going to be ours. I still remember the sense of hope we had as we attended rehearsals on zoom for several weekends in hopes that the show may still go on. The show did not go on; there was no shining goodbye to a program that made me who I am, and no closure for years and years of hard work, friendship, and passion. I remember feeling like I was still trapped in a never-ending loop, reliving March 13th every day of my life. My world and all of my expectations had been shattered.
I remember this feeling – an urge that I needed to create more art that ran through every vein and bone in my body. I felt angry and disappointed in the world and leaned into the only outlet I’ve ever known – dancing. . I remember not wanting to create anything related to Covid, and I swear if I watched one more angsty dance about Covid on Instagram, I think I may have screamed. I hated the reality we were living in, and anything that reminded me of it was infuriating. I felt like I had lost true contact with my fellow artists and outside inspirations. I love Instagram as much as the next person, but I am someone who loves the real world and being connected to other people, nature, and art up close and in person. With the only things I could see being my house, my yard, and the world through digital media, I felt everything was surreal and fake. Instagram and other social media platforms are known for being filled up with lies and false images and personas that I felt like I was consuming the processed food version of human connection as opposed to true organic interactions.
I had thought that the second I stepped out of the house and could see people in person again was going to be the most liberating experience ever. I would finally have that hole in my heart and soul filled again. But the threat of Covid was not going to go away in a month or even a year. When we took our first steps back into the world, it was not the one we remembered; face masks and distancing made it feel like we were hiding behind our computers again, and dancing in taped-off boxes on the floor restricted our freedom to explore movement just as our dining rooms had. It wasn’t until this summer that I felt truly fulfilled when I was in packed studios rehearsing for a full-length ballet with Boca Ballet Theater. This was the first time when Covid and its protocols were not of daily conversation; no one hardly mentioned it in those five weeks. Rehearsing in studios for hours on end and stepping on stage with some of my best friends, feeling that shining moment without the thoughts of Covid for the first time in years, was the therapy I needed. Dance has been and always will be my therapeutic outlet, but after Covid I understand that the connection and inspiration from the real world and other people are what makes my artform so spectacular for me.
Chloe started dancing at age 2 with a local studio. She quickly learned that dancing was not just a weekly hobby but a passion that provided a creative outlet for her feelings and ideas. She began her formal training with UNCSA Preparatory Dance at age 8 and has continued her training as a classical ballet major in the UNCSA High School Conservatory. Her summer studies have included Chautauqua, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet West, American Ballet Theatre, and Boca Ballet Theatre, where she had the unique opportunity to work with four artistic directors and perform in Dan Guin’s full-length production of “The Sleeping Beauty” with ABT Soloist Chloe Misseldine. Chloe also enjoys choreography and has won numerous choreography awards at the local, state, and national levels, including the National PTA Reflections Bronze Medal of Merit. When she is not dancing, her favorite activities include baking, traveling, painting, thrifting, and studying history.