Artswrk founders Ramita Ravi and Nick Silverio (Photo by Raashi Desai, courtesy Silverio)

Ramita Ravi and Nick Silverio Are Making the “Artswrk” for Them

Waking up at 4 am to stand in line for an audition that starts at noon. Spending hours carefully editing dance videos for Instagram with hopes that you'll be discovered for your dream job. Stalking a fellow dancer on social media to figure out just how they got that lucrative weekend gig dancing at kids' birthday parties.

These are just some of the crazy-demanding norms that come with the territory of launching a professional dance career. "There are so many things we've just learned to accept. But we don't want to anymore," Nick Silverio says. Along with Ramita Ravi, the two NYC-based dancers are on a mission to make artists' careers more sustainable, equitable and enjoyable, through a new professional networking site called Artswrk.

Ravi and Silverio, who met as classmates at the University of Pennsylvania, had been brainstorming how to make the often-unpredictable career of an artist easier for a while. When COVID-19 completely shuttered the arts industry back in March, however, ideas turned into action. "Seeing all of our friends and co-workers massively impacted by the pandemic with no safety net, we felt compelled to help make being an artist a legitimate profession that isn't stigmatized," Silverio says. "No one should be a starving artist anymore."

Ravi and Silverio envisioned a one-stop shop where artists from every field could access the tools they need to build their careers: professional networking; health care and financial assistance; branding and housing resources; and more. And from that vision, Artswrk was born.

According to Ravi, Artswrk is a bit of a hybrid between LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, created by artists, for artists. Aside from using it as a resource hub, new members are able to create and customize their own profiles on the platform, including photos, videos, resumés and any other skills or interests. Members can also track and organize all of their work history and, more important, who they've worked with.

"The cool thing is, if I did a job with Nick, I could tag him in that job, and then see everyone who has also worked there before on one page," says Ravi. According to Ravi and Silverio, that feature will be particularly important to dancers, who tend to book work more from friendly recommendations rather than formal open-call auditions. Silverio explains: "Artists are going to appreciate being able to have all their gigs in one place, and be able to make actual referrals on the platform instead of word-of-mouth, Instagram or Facebook Messenger."

Artswrk founders Ramita Ravi and Nick Silverio (Photo by Raashi Desai, courtesy Silverio)

To help bring Artswrk to life, Ravi and Silverio drew from not only their time as professional dancers in NYC, but also their knowledge and interests outside of dance. With professional experience consulting for start-ups on user experience design and product management, Ravi took the lead on the development side. Meanwhile, Silverio, who studied economics with a concentration in commercial dance management, focused on building Artswrk's brand and promoting the new platform. When it came to actually creating the website, the pair enlisted the help of some fellow multitalented artists. "Neither of us are coders, so we hired two engineers to build the site. We also took on a marketing intern and a development intern," says Silverio. "Almost all of them are dancers-turned-something-else, which is exciting." After many rounds of user testing and collecting feedback, the platform's beta waitlist is now open ahead of Artswrk's official public launch in 2021.

We've seen the power of #SocialDisDancing together this year, and Silverio and Ravi are hoping that Artswrk will fit right into the virtual mix as a space for artists to build each other up. "I've personally felt like there aren't that many South Asians in the arts industry, and I wish that I had been able to go somewhere and meet other brown people, even if they're just actors or singers," Ravi says. "During this pandemic, we're really seeing the power in community and sharing." Case in point: One of the platform's first initiatives ahead of Artswrk's official launch is a holiday market promoting artists' small businesses. "So many artists have started side jobs this year, and we want to help them find consumers who are interested in supporting the arts," Ravi says.

Ultimately, the team's goal is to help advocate for the arts industry as dancers make their return (hopefully soon) to the fast-paced hustle of auditioning and working again. "I want to have an Instagram that's just mine, personally, not a place that I have to show off all of my work all the time," says Silverio (who knows a thing or two about going viral on social media). "We want artists to feel like they aren't fighting to stay relevant, online or off-. We're all equals in this. As the industry starts to grow back, we want Artswrk to grow with it."

Ravi and Silverio's venture is a natural culmination of interests and skills the pair had already been honing throughout their professional dance careers. Both dancers are grateful to have been able to weather the pandemic in NYC, thanks to their nondance jobs, and they want to encourage other dancers to not be afraid to explore their other passions.

"Since there aren't many dance jobs, artists are branching out or pivoting into other fields. But doing those things while you're still a dancer, just to make your life as whole as possible, is also a great idea," says Ravi. Silverio agrees: "I love to bake, I love Excel...we all have those weird things that make us happy, and capitalizing on those things to support yourself doesn't mean you love dance any less. There are so many ways you can drive your joy and passion as an artist."

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How Dancers Can Beat Zoom Fatigue

Now that we're more than nine months into the pandemic, there's a big chance you're feeling Zoom-ed out. Read: Totally overusing the video-conferencing app for school and dance classes—and everything else. And according to dance/movement therapist Erica Hornthal, MA, LCPC, BC-DMT, there's good reason for that: "Managing your environment in a virtual space is taxing on the mind, and therefore taxing on the body."

Hornthal attributes these feelings, in part, to a mind–body disconnect that happens when we use the app: Your body knows you are alone in the room, but your mind sees a group of people on screen—and managing this COVID-era reality can be, well, exhausting. But we can also feel Zoom fatigue, Hornthal says, from having to "constantly be present to the third 'person' in the room: the Zoom camera." Uh, relatable!

So if staring at a grid of fuzzy faces—or into the abyss of that cold, dark lens on your device—has you feeling less than energized, here are some ways to cope.

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Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Cory Lingner

How Broadway Dancer Cory Lingner Perfected the TikTok Duet

With #SocialDisDancing still very much in place, it's a challenge for dance partners to perform safely, and even harder to perform safely together.

But Broadway's Cory Lingner may have found the solution—on TikTok. He's using the app to tap alongside some of the most iconic movie stars, including Gene Kelly, Gregory Hines, Ann Miller and Shirley Temple. And, no, he doesn't have a time-traveling device.

Lingner has perfected the use of the app's duet feature. On one side of the video is a clip of the tap-dancing icon and on the other is Lingner, dancing in unison. And as a bonus, Lingner's also giving viewers facts about the stars and the performances as they watch.

Lingner's danced in everything from On the Town to An American in Paris, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Carousel. But still, his tapping TikToks may be one of his favorite challenges yet. "I've gotten very lucky to do shows on Broadway," Lingner says, "But I haven't actually gotten to do as much tapping as I'm doing in these videos."

When Broadway shut down last March due to the pandemic, Lingner was in rehearsals for Love Life with New York City Center's Encores! series. Without a stage and a live audience, he's getting his fill of performing from his social media duet series. And it's so popular on TikTok, he's gained more than 8 thousand followers in a mere month.


##duet with @tcm & Gene Kelly!! Couldn’t think of a better way to make my TikTok debut! ##genekelly tapdancechallenge ##tap ##tapdance ##dancechallenge

♬ original sound - Turner Classic Movies

Dance Spirit: How did your "Cory's Duet Series" on TikTok get started?

Cory Lingner: It was kind of just a spur-of-the-moment thing. The very first spark of inspiration was another fellow tapper, Nicole Billow. She actually did the first side-by-side with Gene Kelly from An American in Paris. I watched it and I was like, "This looks really fun." I went ahead and made a TikTok account and made my first duet. I posted that thing with zero followers and by the end of the night, there were 500 followers and it was blowing up with views.

DS: How do you pick which numbers you're going to do?

CL: Well, part of it is going down the YouTube rabbit hole looking up performers that I'm familiar with. The majority of what I've tried to focus on is introducing new performers so I don't repeat dancers too much. The last time that I repeated was with Vera Allen in White Christmas, since it was the holiday.

I also try to find sections where not only I can do the choreography in my limited space, with my little piece of plywood, but also if they're able to stay on a single camera shot for long enough for the 20 to 30 seconds.

DS: How long does it take you to learn the dances?

CL: It depends. If I'm a bit more familiar with it, I can probably pick it up quicker. Sometimes it takes 15 to 30 minutes. One that I worked on that I'm going to share is with Ginger Rogers. That took about an hour and a half. Luckily, I've always been a visual learner.

DS: What do you think about the skill level of some of Shirley Temple's tap steps?

CL: It's remarkable the fact that she did that many films and had that kind of tap dance skill set at such a young age. It is so impressive to me. People were commenting on that video too, writing, "Oh my gosh, I didn't even realize what she can do. That's very impressive."

DS: It seems like we don't see this style of dance anymore, since the Golden Age of the Hollywood movie musical. How do you feel film choreography has changed since then?

CL: This style of dance definitely does feel different. I've always admired it and gravitated towards it. It's fascinating to picture how these choreographers even conceptualized sequences where the stars are dancing all across these sets and sound stages.

I find myself wondering, "Did they have the set to begin with and then worked on it, or did they come up with ideas and then that gave set designers ideas to build?" The rhythms and the tap melodies are pretty bright, and that makes it really fun for me and exciting for anyone watching.

DS: What is some of the feedback you've been getting?

CL: Oh, my goodness. It's so lovely, all the comments and messages. There was a grandmother that said, "I think you just inspired my 3-year-old grandson to start taking dance." It warms my heart. From what I'm reading and seeing, it still resonates with so many people.

DS: What are some dream duets that you need to do?

CL: I've gotten a lot of people up requesting the Nicholas Brothers. They're the best. I'm going to try to see if I can find something to do them justice and try to keep up with them. But with my little piece of plywood, there's no way I can do their iconic jump into the splits because I'd get splinters.

There were other duets people were recommending, like James Cagney. So I'm trying to find a moment when he stays still. I learned "Moses Supposes" from Singin' in the Rain many years ago, which would be really fun to tackle again. Maybe I'd do that one in two separate sections, so I can do one with Gene Kelly and one with Donald O'Connor.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer and choreographer Hope Boykin (center) after teaching a master class at the Center for Civil and Human Rights (Emily Hawkins, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

4 Dance Works Honoring the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Social justice has a been a prominent theme in many Black American dancemakers' repertoires. Today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day­—and in the midst of ongoing social and political turmoil in America—this theme carries new resonance.

Dr. King's legacy has spurred the creation of many dance works, with many creators using his words to respond to the social issues of the moment. So, today, in celebration of MLK, Jr. Day, here are four of those dances which honor the legacy of the late civil rights leader.

"r-Evolution, Dream." by Hope Boykin

Set to a soundscape that includes music by jazz musician Ali Jackson, narration by Tony Award-winner Leslie Odom, Jr., "r-Evolution, Dream.," performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, debuted in 2017. Choreographer—and Ailey vet—Hope Boykin was inspired to create the piece on a visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. "I got a chance to listen to Dr. King's voice and watch the footage of his funeral with the casket running through the city," Boykin said in an interview with the L.A. Times. Boykin says she was especially stirred by the cadence and sound of his voice.

Moved by the timeliness of Dr. King's teachings (over a half century after he first orated them), Boykin set out to create a ballet that, in effect, translated some of his most famous sermons and teachings into movement. The ensemble piece, which also features solos and sets of pas de deuxs, is a powerful reminder of the long fight ahead for racial equality in America.

"Bodies as a Site of Faith and Protest" by Tommie-Waheed Evans

First performed by Dallas Black Dance Theatre in 2018, "Bodies as Site of Faith and Protest" also transcribes Dr. King's words into dance—only this work zeroes in one particular speech: Dr. King's "We Shall Overcome."

The most resounding imagery in choreographer Tommie-Waheed Evans's work is the clump of dancers at center-center, who march and march with searing purpose oozing from their eyes—yet seem to arrive nowhere. It's as if Evans puts on display the historical, present, and future conditions of the Black American: That the battle for equal protection under the law will be ongoing.

"Dougla" by Geoffrey Holder

In response to the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, Arthur Mitchell, then a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, felt compelled to take action. His efforts would culminate in the formation of Dance Theatre of Harlem.

The ballet troupe performs everything from classical rep to new works—one of the most iconic is Geoffrey Holder's "Dougla," with movement that depicts the wedding of a Dougla couple, in which one partner is of African descent and the other of Indian descent. The ballet features a spectacle of costume, with a thumping, grounding pulsation of drums beneath movement that, in of itself, is bold and unafraid of making a statement.

Perhaps most memorable about this piece are the moments done in unison, when everything is "working together at once," as Carmen de Lavallade, who helped restage the piece for DTH in 2018, said to theNew York Times. The power in these moments of togetherness conjures scenes of Americans marching in unity for social justice, echoing the very reasons Dr. King worked to lead change before his death.

"Deep Blue Sea" by Bill T. Jones

In an interview with our sister publication Dance Magazine, Jones says the work deals with one overarching question in particular: "Are we really still this beacon, this light on a hill, this conglomerate of disparate groups and stakeholders that we call American democracy?" As a young child, he believed that the Black community could overcome the effects of systematic racism, said Jones to DM. Now, he has less faith—and "Deep Blue Sea" dives into the reasons why.

Intended to be performed at the Park Avenue Armory, the cast included not only the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, but also nearly 100 members of the New York City community.

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