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How College Dance Programs Are Celebrating the Class of 2020

With COVID-19 causing mass cancellations of commencement ceremonies, colleges around the world have had to get creative and improvise remote graduation celebrations. But no one does "creative" like the dance world. We spoke with leadership at some top college dance programs about how they're honoring the class of 2020.

Celebrating Seniors on Social

In the age of quarantine, Instagram has become a major virtual dance hub—so it only makes sense that college dance programs would utilize the platform to celebrate their senior class. Many schools have launched hashtag campaigns recognizing their fabulous graduating classes.

USC Kaufman is also highlighting its graduating dancers further on Instagram with "2020 Tutorials"—Instagram Live classes taught by members of the senior class, held each week on Thursdays.

Reimagining Commencement Ceremonies

Most colleges have already moved their commencement ceremonies online. However, those ceremonies are typically for the entire school, and many smaller departments or programs have taken on the challenge of creating individualized online graduation ceremonies. New York University's Tisch dance department, the Elon dance department, and USC Kaufman are all planning special graduation celebrations for their seniors, to be held on Zoom.

"We plan to host our own virtual celebration including video messages, slideshows and a few surprises," says Jodie Gates, USC Kaufman vice dean.

Final Performances Go Virtual

For graduating dancers, the pain of social distancing is particularly poignant, since a lot of their end-of-year traditions—thesis presentations, final dance concerts, senior productions—are performance-based. Naturally, many college dance programs were unwilling to let these traditions go by the wayside. Final performances have transitioned from the stage to cyberspace at schools like The Juilliard School, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Elon University and University of the Arts.

"For a dancer, no online event can replace the thrill of performing on stage," says Seán Curran, chair of the dance department at Tisch, "But our virtual activities are being designed to maintain our sense of community and to continue our rituals of coming together to honor and celebrate the hard work and substantial achievements of our graduates."

The class of 2020 will always be remembered as special for succeeding and graduating in such challenging times. And seniors, if you haven't yet—be sure to check out how the Dance Spirit team is honoring all your hard work.

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Photo by Joe Toreno. Hair by Marina Migliaccio and makeup by Lisa Chamberlain, both for the Rex Agency.

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