On Thursday March 19, 2020 the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, issued a statewide “stay-at-home” order stating that it could possibly be in effect for up to two months. I have been doing this for over a week now and though it is difficult, it does get better as time passes. If you have not seen what is and is not allowed, it is stated clearly here.

Sitting still or being unproductive has never been part of my DNA and during this time of COVID-19, my brain has been keeping me awake at night trying to come up with something to write about. I did another article on my mentor Viola Farber, and in collaboration with other writers at LA Dance Chronicle (LADC), came up with a list of concerts and events that have been cancelled, dance studios that are open or closed, and venues that have cancelled performances. Watching the closure and cancelled lists grow is indeed depressing.


The evening news can also be daunting but that and reliable internet sites like the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organization) are important methods to stay informed, learn what if anything is new about avoiding infection, etc. Although she sometimes scares me, I find that I can trust Rachel Maddow to give us straight forward and honest truths.

My partner goes two days a week to assist his 90-year-old mother. He is very cautious about washing his hands, but of course I get concerned. Shopping for groceries has become challenging. Staples such as toilet paper, paper towels, rice, milk, etc. are disappearing off the shelves as soon as they are re-stocked due to panic shopping. Stocking up is necessary but hoarding only deprives others from necessities.

Empty grocery shelves

I am discovering just how connected we are through the internet, but it saddens me to realize that this will be our new norm for several weeks or months. I am extremely fortunate that I have a steady income of retirement and Social Security checks right now, but how long will that continue if the country goes broke? For now, I will quote Scarlet O’Hara in the 1940 film Gone With the Wind, “I’ll think about it tomorrow”.

I have friends in Italy and have sent video links of two of Viola Farber’s works for dance students in Rome to learn and hopefully perform. Everything, of course, is on hold until we all come out on the other side of this pandemic. Some of you may know dancer/choreographer Sarah Swenson (Vox Dance Theatre) who moved to Italy a couple of years ago. She is assisting a dear friend from my New York days, Roberta Escamilla Garrison, for this project. Like us, they are forced to stay-at-home, and their businesses and theaters are closed.  It appears that more and more states in the US are adopting these strict measures in order to lower the infection curve of COVID-19.

People have begun to get together virtually to take classes, jam together or like one of my colleagues from the Merce Cunningham Trust, send out links of videos and other dance related websites for instructors who are teaching virtually via skype or other virtual means set up through their colleges and universities. Patricia Lent who danced for many years with the Cunningham company, sent out links to videos that, if you are interested, can be found on the Merce Cunningham Trust’s website.  One of my favorites is the series of 15-minute videos called “Mondays With Merce” that he recorded and put out each week before he died.  It is a wealth of knowledge for you dance history buffs out there or if you admired the man as so many of us did.

Mondays With Merce

Mondays With Merce

It is a cliché by now, but we humans are basically communal beings. We enjoy physical touch, gathering in groups for entertainment such as sports and concerts of all genres, and for many, a once a year family reunion. This was big in the south where I grew up, although I found it torturous.

But, I digress.  Staying in touch with our loved ones, friends and colleagues is vital, but staying alive is necessary in order to continue doing that very thing. I have discovered that my sense of curiosity has been piqued during this crisis and I am going about finding ways to stay in touch and/or helping others via my writings for LADC. I also find that I have spent more time on the telephone, an activity that I have never truly embraced unless the conversation was stimulating or humorous – preferably both.

Viola Farber’s sisters are still alive. One lives in Chicago and the other in Oregon.  Elisabeth, in Chicago, and I have remained in contact since Viola’s death in 1998 through letters, cards and emails, and she has become a subscriber of LADC. Knowing that she lives alone I recently called to ask if she was ok and getting groceries and other necessities what she required. We ended up talking for about 20 minutes and after I hung up, I was reminded how email has caused letter writing to become a lost art, and how texting has replaced picking up the phone and specking directly to someone.  When expanded, however, the internet can keep us all virtually close at hand. In her mid nineties, Elisabeth was helping her son by acting as a test person for a virtual program; one that would help him stay in contact with his clients.

I tire of television shows, and cable news, although addictive, becomes depressing, so I am going to subscribe to Marquee T.V. or OVID.TV so that I can watch dance, opera and theater productions. As good as they all are, I can take just so much of British mysteries, sitcoms or political satire shows like Samantha Bee or The Daily Show.  Thank you NetFlix, TBS and PBS, but I need more.

If you, the reader, think of a subject or issue that you would like LADC to cover while we are house bound, email me at jeff@ladancechronicle.com.  We will our best. Photos help, but if you can not send them we will improvise.  Most dancers have had experience doing just that.

Stay safe! Stay healthy! Stay in touch!

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, March 21, 2020.