Heather Castillo is a performer, dancemaker, scholar, educator, mom and an assistant professor of Performing Arts, Dance at California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI). Before returning to school to earn a BA and MFA in Dance and Choreography, Castillo worked as a commercial dancer in Los Angeles performing in multiple specials for Disney and industrial shows.  In 2018 she won CSUCI’s President’s award for Teaching and Learning Innovation for her efforts to decolonize (release from the status of a colony) the online Dance History course and for her campus-wide multimedia event Arts Under The Stars that synthesizes the arts with various creative and research projects.

Among her many projects which include building a dance department at CSUCI, Castillo is working on a centralized list of the long-overlooked choreographers in the commercial and film industry, helping others to know their names and their work.

Heather Castillo - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Heather Castillo – Photo courtesy of the artist.

Recognizing, however, the immediate dilemma of isolation, postponement and/or cancellation of dance artists’ work around the globe caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Castillo has built a website to archive what dance artists everywhere can use to  post videos and articles about how they are coping with the enforced stay-at-home, social distancing has done to their lives and livelihoods. That site is called CORontine Corps.

During the month of March 2020, the world of education in all its forms was driven to go virtual, unless they already were. Teachers have had to re-design their curriculum so that it can be taught in a webinar format via programs such as Zoom, or Google Hangouts.  K-12 schools, colleges and universities are working hard to continue educating students. This virtual instruction has reached into the dance world with studios of all genres offering online warm-ups and classes designed for dancers to take a class in their kitchen, living room or basement. My friend and colleague Lynn Dally sent me a email advertising online tap dance classes in London, and I know that around the world artists are posting partial or full performances on You Tube and Instagram.

Numerous dance artists who have long been putting short movement ideas and/or phrases on their Facebook and Instagram pages, are now sharing their ideas about how to stay in shape or where to go online to take a virtual class. I watched one artist teach a short jazz dance phrase in a video on Twitter.  The possibilities are as plentiful as there are artists willing to expand their imagination.

CORontine Corps came about following several Zoom sessions between Castillo and colleagues that included Dance Studies Association Executive Director Lizzie Leopold.  The site itself was inspired by dancer, choreographer and filmmaker Mitchell Rose’s website Exquisite Corps; a site that was created for educational purposes only. One can go to the website to read about and see Rose’s film. Castillo describes her project CORontine Corps as a place “where the global community can come together and archive our collective moment of virtual education and CORontine”.

Referring to the making of a video to be posted on her global project website CORontine Corps, Castilla said, “Anyone can do this. A kindergarten class could make one. K-12, professional dancers or higher education dancers can do this.” She repeatedly used the word dancers to stress that anyone who want to make a digital or virtual project to be part of CORontine Corps can do this. She is not talking high tech productions. Castillo has opened up the possibilities of this global project so that all dancer – dancers around the world – can even use their cell phones to make videos to be shared worldwide.

In the near future Castillo will put a video of herself explaining the project as well as the process of submitting videos to CORontine Corps. She feels that the human explanation will clarify some of the issues that having to read through lone written instructions might and help people know that it is simple to do. This simplicity, she hopes, will encourage more dancers around the world to take part in assisting everyone to stay connected, share their thoughts, ideas, hopes and their art.

Artwork for CORontine Corps website courtesy of Heather Castillo

Artwork for CORontine Corps website courtesy of Heather Castillo

As stated on the CORontine Corps website, This is a project where the global dance community can come together and archive our collective moment of virtual education and CORontine. Castillo is working with the Art Department at CSUCI to create a map of the world,

They will determine how that map looks in terms of color and texture in this moment of pandemic, quarantine, shutdown, closure.” Castillo explained. “Every person who submits to me” Castillo said. “ it can be a photo, it can be writing, it can be – in regard to dance – movement – or a video – will have their point geotagged on the map.”

Castillo will upload al the submissions onto the story map, which will be a You Tube channel called CORontine Corps. The website with its archive of writings and videos in their raw form, will to be submitted to a library such as the New York Library of Performing Arts for anyone and everyone across the globe who is interested to see what dancers around the world did when they were shut down. Castillo has envisioned and is in the process of creating a brilliant and extremely humane project to archive what we are currently experiencing.

She explained that this is not difficult to do and that the process is fully explained on the CORontine Corps website. Castillo has created a DropBox file request for dancers to submit their video file or document. She is also in the process of creating a template for Word doc so that one can simply fill it out and submit.

At this point the deadline for submissions is May 1, 2020. Castillo stresses that the quality of the submissions does not matter. She simply wants the dance world to get busy and do it.

I can see,” She said. “where someone says, ‘I get up every morning and do my improv.’ And then they edit together how that daily log changes in quarantine. I am looking for people’s artistic expressions of togetherness alone or alone togetherness.”

Her video at the website will encourage everyone to have fun, to respond, and to be honest. It does not have to be glorious and beautiful. Use your cell phone. I plan to share this article with my friends and colleagues throughout the U.S., in Italy, France, England, Sweden, Spain, Argentina and elsewhere.  LA Dance Chronicle hopes that you will do the same.

Heather Castillo is an amazing woman filled with ideas and possibilities that she transforms into realities. I hope to interview her this summer for a more in-depth article about all that she is making happen at CSUCI and beyond. Please visit her website www.heathercastillo.cikeys.com for more information on her current research and dance projects.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, March 26, 2020.

To visit the CORontine Corps website, click here.

To learn more about submitting your MOV file or Word doc, click here.

Featured image: Artwork for CORontine Corps website courtesy of Heather Castillo