The space some dance students are practicing in because their dorms are too small. In front of the elevators!
The space some dance students are practicing in because their dorms are too small. In front of the elevators! Courtesy of Faith
This week, we're following students at Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts as they figure out how to go to an arts school in the middle of a pandemic. What do theater rehearsals look like? What about dance technique courses? And how can a community of artists work together if they can't quite be together? We're on Day 3 of this project and things seem hopeful, but still a little confusing.

Today we hear from Faith, Laura, and Christiana:

Freshman, Dance Major
Not an ideal practice space.
Not an ideal practice space. Courtesy of Faith
Today, all of Faith's classes were online. Technically, she has a conditioning class three times a week, but due to the pandemic, each group only gets one in-person session with the instructor each week. They must record the other two conditioning sessions on their own time—most likely in their dorm room—to send to their instructor over Canvas.

The only problem is... Faith has a roommate who is a film major and also needs the space to study. Faith tells me she "feels bad" about dancing in the room, making it all sweaty.

"I didn't even think about the possibility that I was going to dance in my dorm room because I didn't think that we would get this little studio time," she told me. "I feel like they didn't prepare us for this situation."

The need for more space is what prompted her and two of her floormates to convert a weird lobby space in front of their dorm's elevators into a makeshift studio, where they can spread out and dance more freely. She referred to her hallway as a "resource" for her, despite it lacking adequate flooring, mirrors, and windows to make the experience more enjoyable.

"I'm glad we have that space to do this because it's kind of impossible in my own dorm room," Faith said. "It's still not ideal... I'd go as far as to say that I don't like it. But I dislike dancing in my dorm room even more."

Junior, Design Major

As a design major, most of Laura's classes take place online. Though she says the work she's doing isn't fundamentally different from her in-person experience, she didn't realize how "exhausting" being on Zoom all day would be.

Some of her professors have related that students having their camera on during the class is essential not just for accountability purposes, but also so there is an emotional connection between teacher and student. Laura says her photography professor understands how straining it can be to perform learning over Zoom. The professor gives Laura's three-hour photography class breaks every 30 minutes so they can turn the camera and mic off, walk around, and just be present for a moment.

Still, Laura finds Zoom useful. She likes being able to leave class and immediately be at home, not having to worry about parking or catching the bus during the pandemic.

It also has its academic advantages. Laura said that at the beginning of the school year, all the design department students have a giant meeting with faculty where professors present limited capacity modules (projects) for students to sign up for. Normally it's a "chaotic" experience, with students bum-rushing to the front to sign up for the spot they want. This year, it was as simple as filling out a Google doc. Laura was relieved.

Senior, Dance Major
Another day, another masked dance rehearsal during a global pandemic.
Another day, another masked dance rehearsal during a global pandemic. Courtesy of Christiana

This afternoon, Christiana took the bus down to Kerry Hall to go to her in-person dance class. She and her roommate stretched outside the building while waiting to go in. To try and stay socially distant, the school has been asking students to remain outside until 10 minutes before class to prevent crowding. The buffer also allows the studios to be properly sanitized and disinfected.

Once inside—with only five other people—her contemporary technique course started. They did cartwheeling across the entire floor, weight-bearing exercise on their hands, and learned a combination at the end. Because of the warm weather, the class ended up opening up a window to let the breeze in and so they could breathe. Doing all this strenuous work while wearing a mask "tests our cardio," Christiana said.

The mask-wearing also makes it harder to hear the instructor, so many of the students had to ask for the instructions to be repeated. Christiana admitted it was "weird" to try and stay distant from her classmates when dance is so much about touching, but they are trying to make it work.

Everyone was pretty sweaty at the end. Because of the masks, the new shortened 50-minute course feels like their pre-pandemic two-hour sessions. "It's hotter under the mask because you're breathing heavily and it makes your heart rate go up a little more," she said. They were all up for the challenge.

Check out Day 1 and Day 2.