Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ailey Ascending; Photo by Serena SY Hsu
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ailey Ascending; Photo by Serena SY Hsu

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The Dance Enthusiast's Social Distance Dance Video Series: Sangeeta Yesley of Dixon Place, Expressing Sorrow and Joy Through Poetry, Drawing, Song and Curation

The Dance Enthusiast's Social Distance Dance Video Series: Sangeeta Yesley of Dixon Place, Expressing Sorrow and Joy Through Poetry, Drawing, Song and Curation
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
View Profile | More From This Author

Published on April 28, 2020
Painting of Reshmi Nair by Carol Fabricatore

Creating Community Through Curation of her NYC Drawing Dance Workshop and Dance Quarantine on DixonPlace TV

Hearing from artists about how they are doing during this unusual and odd time is comforting to me.

It helps with the sadness. I miss performances and my favorite events, rehearsals.

Sangeeta Ghosh Yesley, curator at Dixon Place at first shared with me a video excerpt of her curation for DPTV's, "Quarantine:" - a very impressive project and it still is in the body of this piece.

But, when answering my questions, she also shared a poem she wrote in Bengali and English then set to the music of a traditional Bengali tune. I loved it. The lyrics are so sad, yet her singing makes them comforting and beautiful.

I asked if she would mind featuring her short song in our video series because it so clearly illustrates show sadness is somehow easier to handle when buoyed by the arts.


 

Christine Jowers for The Dance Enthusiast: Can you tell us a bit about the clip you sent us?

Sangeeta Yesley: My main quarantine mental escape has been to watch the online shows that many local theaters are producing now and also to write poems and songs for my Bengali literary group. This really helps me to switch off from the present. 

Two weeks ago, I wrote a poem that I set to a tune of an old, well-known Bengali song and I sang it to my literary group and they loved it and asked me to record it.  So, I did :-)  That is what I attached,  the recorded song. It is very simple, with no accompaniment.

This film clip is a compilation of art works created by artists attending the virtual edition of 'NYC Drawing the Dance Workshop'.  I have been organizing these workshops for a few years now,  bringing together dancers and artists .  These are bi-monthly workshops that take place at Dixon Place theater, culminating with a year-end Art Show every December.  With social distancing and self-isolation, losing touch with everyone, I felt an intense need to keep nurturing the connection between the art world and the dance world. 

With the virtual edition of this workshop, I am able to keep that link alive.  The experience is very different and is unique for each workshop.  Beautiful way to escape to the world of art and dance.  Also, calming and healing!  Our 7th workshop is coming up this Sunday, May 3rd, at 1 p.m. EST.  Artists can attend by invitation. All the money raised from these workshops go to the dancer as the artist fee.  For more information write to  creativeperformances.nyc@gmail.com

 

The Dance Enthusiast:  How are you? How is your family? And how are you handling staying at home? 

My family and I are in good health. In addition to coping with the increase in cleaning, cooking, laundry and stressful online grocery shopping for a family of five in the heart of Manhattan, I try to keep busy with curating ‘Dance Quarantine’ and organizing a weekly virtual drawing the dance workshop.  I also attenda weekly Bengali literary session with my friends via zoom.

Homeschooling three of my kids is challenging, but they seem to be adapting to the ‘new normal’ with more ease than myself.

I often quietly shed tears thinking of all the lives lost in this Pandemic. My heart goes out to  the grieving families. Being with my family 24/7, I find strength and solace and their love lifts up my spirit! 

Sangeeta with her lovely family last year.

We never miss our clapping moment every evening in honor and appreciation of all the essential and healthcare workers in the front-line, fighting COVID-19.    


The Dance Enthusiast: How are you communicating with friends /family and those not in your home? 

I communicate mostly via phone calls, emails and text messages. I am worried about my family in India and I use google voice to keep in touch with them. It is comforting to hear their voices. But, there is a world of difference between a video chat and a face-to-face conversation. 

I miss seeing them in person, hugging them; I miss being in Dixon Place hosting my shows, I miss going out to see other events that were an integral part of my pre-pandemic life. I miss communicating with the dancers in person. 

There is the show itself between the audience and the dancers.  But there is also the activity behind the stage where we meet and talk about dance and how things are developing.  And I miss the time after the show when we hang out together and catch up on life and dance. 

Dance is a community of people.  I miss being there in-person connecting with that community. 

 

The Dance Enthusiast: What are you doing about "moving" and "nutrition"  at home?   How do you stay in physical, mental, spiritual shape? 

It is not easy and multivitamins are not enough. A balanced diet is hard. We get meal boxes delivered.  Physical fitness workouts are at their lowest for all members of my family.  We are fortunate to have a porch where we can soak in the sun some days.  We workout indoors. My husband seems to be gaining weight at a rapid rate!  He only seems to move from the bedroom to the kitchen which is well stocked with pasta!

We miss fresh fruits. 


 

The Dance Enthusiast:  What keeps your spirit up right now?

 

As a dance enthusiast, being able to create and curate “Dance Quarantine” gives me joy and hope. Also, being able to organize the virtual drawing the dance workshop is very satisfying and healing.  And lastly and most importantly, the love and affection of my beautiful children help me keep my spirit up. 

Excerpts of Dance Quarantine at DixonPlace TV


This compilation contains excerpts from Dixon Place's virtual dance series "Dance Quarantine" at DP TV by the following choreographers, in the order of appearance:Marisa f. Ballaro/ Ballaro Dance, Kristen Klein / Inclined Dance Project, Charles E. Scheland, Michelle Thompson Ulerich, Alia Kache, Kyla Piscopink / Dance Key West. Dancers and Choreographers express their feelings at this challenging time of self-isolation and social distancing during COVID-19 lock-down in USA. Dance Quarantine I, II, III......The dance videos are available to watch in Past DP TV Programs. 
Curated by Sangeeta Yesley Music: Various from excerpts DP TV programs are free & artists are compensated. Tax deductible donations support Dixon Place during this challenging time. dixonplace.org
Dixon Place dance programs are made possible with support from the Mertz Gilmore Fdn, Jerome Robbins Fdn, Harkness Fdn for Dance and NYSCA.
 


 

The Dance Enthusiast:  What would you like to say to your colleagues, your audiences,  and our readers?

We need patience, in abundance.  Other countries have shown us that the COVID-19 virus can be defeated by practicing caution and safety. But, it takes time.  It is hard to know the unknown world we will be stepping into after this is over.

I worry about the theater industry.  I wonder whether it might come back to the way it was.  Will the audience want to sit among strangers?  Will the dancers want to pile into a crowed dressing room?  Will people still want to take part in the community after the show?  I worry about a less intimate world where people social distance even when in the same room. 

 I am trying to stay positive and hoping for the best outcome. 


   

 

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