We’re still in iso here in Sydney. And while Morrison is talking about and early opening, even if the states do go ahead, we will see a second wave before the end of 2020.
Even if we do get out of iso, we will be adhering to safety measures (washing our hands, covering our mouths, not touching people, keeping 1.5m apart) for a much longer time.
Dancing is a high risk activity: all that touching, but also the respiratory droplets blown everywhere by all the panting and puffing and open mouths. Not to mention musicians and their germ-blower instruments.
We won’t be lindy hopping (or solo jazzing) until we get a vaccine, and we’ve seen that vaccine work reliably.
Beyond that, we don’t have the infrastructure to support weekend events. Private venues (eg dance halls, etc) are just devastated by the iso restrictions. Public venues (town halls etc) will either be closed and repurposed, or under extremely strict rules (eg no more than 10 people at a time, hardcore hygiene and cleaning, etc). The people who run events will still be recovering financially (eg we still have outstanding debts from Jazz Bang), and will need to develop new seed money sums, or new sponsorship options.
Music and the arts generally are fucked in NSW and Australia. No sound engineers, lighting specialists, etc etc – all those people who support the artists on stage. They’ll have all started looking for other work and have other commitments to support families and pay rent.
Insurance will become a serious issue. I’ve already had emails from my insurer about new conditions. I personally don’t want to risk legal action for endangering people. And if we start doing things like taking temperatures at dances, we take responsibility for health, and open ourselves to legal action. And I know I don’t want to have to face the Worksafe issues of putting volunteers and staff in unsafe conditions.
Beyond that, the market for big dance events will change. The bulk of the market for these events are those ‘intermediate’ dancers – people who aren’t new, and aren’t super long time dancers (though JB is an exception on this – this older/newer group is our market). We’ll need to find new ways of targeting those markets.
But those avenues of advertising and market development will have changed. Dance schools will have gone out of business, and/or teachers will have had to redirect their energies to things like working from home, new jobs, etc. If we do start up classes again, it’ll take a few years to get up to speed and redevelop the labour force (unpaid volunteers, primarily) to run regular and big events. It’ll be like starting new scenes.
Five years is a long time in dance world. That’s a generation of dancers. I’ll be 51. All our dancers generally will be older – the difference between 22 and 27 is huge when it comes to family and day job commitments.
And of course, my greatest fear is our OGs. Older black Americans. Black americans are four times more likely to die of COVID19 than white americans. And older people are even more vulnerable. I personally cannot countenance the thought of dancers starting dancing again and deliberately endangering the communities that gave us these dances and music.
I’m wondering whether we’ll see people super-keen to do dancing after covid19, or if we’ll see people too afraid to touch other people after covid19. To be honest, I suspect (considering things my epi friends say), we won’t have ‘after covid19′ for many many years. It will be how we live. A seasonal disease that we manage with degrees of isolation and quarantine until a vaccine is found, and then administered to the entire population.
We may be able to start doing smaller events in privates spaces (eg our homes) in 2021, but only mid-way through.
But it’s not all tears.
I’ve been thinking about alternative models for delivering jazz dance and jazz music. Unlike the 1980s, before we saw this new generation of dancers, we have the internet. It’s the perfect tool for delivering audio and audio-visual content. And if we get to the point of small groups gathering in private spaces, we’ll have bands again. And if we can get a few dancers in there, then the bands will be able to learn and relearn playing for and with dancers. So I think the pre-pandemic move towards smaller events will stand us in good stead in the coming years. We’ll get really really good at doing small, quality events that value safety like Jazz BANG.
The saddest thing of all, is that jazz is social. It invites us into each other’s company. To hold each other close. And breathe wet air in each others’ faces :D