Flathead dance company creatively choreographs performance during pandemic

Dancing Spirit Ranch
Posted at 4:26 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 14:00:47-04

COLUMBIA FALLS — A Flathead Valley dance company creatively choreographed and rehearsed to stay safe from coronavirus while still delivering a performance, bringing the community together.

Yancey Dance Theatre founder and artistic director Leslie Yancey told MTN News that the creative process for creating a dance piece during coronavirus was different.

"Performers had to be spaced apart. So, there's no partner work or lifting or anything like that," said Yancey. "Which is part of the original vision for sure."

She explained that the rehearsal process was different as well. Yancey set up specific boundaries using things like pool noodles for her dancers so they could socially distance themselves.

"Landmarks to designate space for each individual," she said. "And almost like swimming lanes. Here's the area to move in. So, very clear boundaries."

When social distancing couldn't be maintained, the dancers and audience members wore masks.

"The first part was going to be no masks but then, it was still even difficult to get everyone far enough apart," said Yancey.

Yancey told MTN News that luckily the dancers performed outside at Dancing Spirit Ranch near Columbia Falls where they have over 160 acres of land.

Ranch co-founder Robin Gardner explained that because of the virus the ranch's typically busy summer was quiet with just one reservation.

Gardner said Dancing Spirit Ranch received funding from the Personal Paycheck Protection (PPP) program at the beginning of the pandemic.

The PPP program was designed to support small businesses and help with things like their payroll.

However, she told MTN that amount of money barely kept them through a few months.

"We did get the PPP loan which was nice but at the same time that was really created for two months," she said. "And when you're in hospitality it was really much more of a hit than two months."

Gardner says Yancey Dance Theatre approached Dancing Spirit Ranch to perform outside.

"It was perfect timing. It was when I was trying to reinvent the wheel and think about what we could do to get people outside and how to get people to the ranch," said Gardner.

She added that Dancing Spirit Ranch didn't charge Yancey Dance Theatre to use their space.

Gardner said she was just pleased to have the spaced used and open for the public to come and see the dance performance.

She told MTN that they are starting to book up for fall, but will have to be flexible if coronavirus cases continue to rise.

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