From the most famous choreographers to the newest of dance newbies, we're all going through the same pandemic-related struggles right now. So, how are the pros coping with it all? To find out, we're conducting an interview series. Over the next few weeks, we'll be catching up with some of your favorite dancers to see how they're step-ball-changing their way through this unprecedented moment in dance history. We had the chance to chat with American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet member Erica Lall. (Be sure to check out Erica's takeover of our Instagram for an inside peek at her day in the #SocialDisDancing life.)
Where are you spending this time of social distancing?
I am at home with my mom, my dad, and my grandma. We're out here in Cypress, TX.
What were you up to right before social distancing was advised?
At ABT, we were in a crazy rehearsal period, because we were just about to start our massive touring season. We had just performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., about two weeks before, and we were back in New York, rehearsing. I was working on the Kingdom of the Shades scene in La Bayadère, Deux Coupe, and Jardin Aux Lilas. We were supposed to be touring to Chicago, Duke University, Detroit, and Abu Dhabi.
What do your days look like right now?
It's nice to be able to sleep in a tiny bit, but I still wake up pretty early because I'm taking classes with ABT on Zoom. Our ballet master, Carlos Lopez, has been giving classes pretty much every day of the week.
ABT is also offering certification classes for the company for the ABT National Training Curriculum, our teacher training program. I'm actually already certified in the pre-primary to third levels, but I'm going back over those levels on Zoom, taking notes and thinking about what I want to emphasize when I teach. That's pretty much every day from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., which has been adding nice structure to my day. We've also been having a lot of ABT company meetings on Zoom—I really have been on Zoom so much, not gonna lie. But it's actually great, because I get to see all my fellow company members, and then I don't feel like we're too separated.
Otherwise, I've just been trying to stay active—biking, gardening, walking my sister's dog...I even got out my roller-skates from when I was a kid! I've also been cooking and baking a lot. I made a cauliflower crust pizza, which was really interesting for me, because I'm not a health girl—I like my Popeye's. I also made a really good vegetarian tortilla soup. Look at me go!
What's it like taking company class on Zoom?
It's definitely strange. Class is usually a community thing. Normally I wake up, meet my friends at the train station, ride with them to the studio, take class together. Now, I wake up, and I'm basically already in my studio, so it doesn't feel the same. But it is so amazing that we have the ability to be taking classes. And the Zoom meeting is open 20 minutes before class, so we'll chat before, and we'll chat in the chat box during class.
How has your dancing been impacted by social distancing?
I feel like I can't do as much. It's hard to keep up the muscle strength that I had because I can't be dancing the same way on hardwood or tile floors—I can't be jumping on that floor. But I do think because I'm doing different things, like yoga and biking, that I'm working on different muscles, strengthening in different ways than I would be if I was just doing ballet. Plus, our physical therapist is doing Zoom and FaceTime calls with all of us dancers, keeping us in check, asking if there are any muscle groups we want to work on, and recommending some exercises, which is so great.
How do you think the dance world will look once this is over?
I think we're going to be dancing with so much more passion, because we'll know how hard it is when dance is taken away from us. Usually, at ABT, we have an eight-week layoff where we aren't dancing with each other, but this is a much longer period of not training, not performing. Once we come back to the stage, there's going to be so much energy out there.
Who's the first person you want to see after social distancing?
I think my nephew. He turns one on Tuesday, and I love him so much. I really want to give him a little kiss on the cheek.
But also, my company! I miss them so much. I want to be with them. ABT is a family. So many people say that, but it really is true. We're connected emotionally, because we spend so much time together. It feels weird not having a daily life with them.
First dance class you want to take?
Honestly, company ballet class!
First place you want to go?
New York. I miss my life there. I miss my apartment. I miss the daily routine of going to work with my fellow company members. Also, Jamaica. My mom is from Jamaica, and we usually try to go at least once a year. It feels like a second home to me.
Any last words of advice for your fellow dancers?
I think we're going to come back stronger. There's a lot we've had to do on our own because of all of this, and that's strengthened us. And I think audiences will be so much more appreciative of what we do, now that they've realized how much they rely on the arts.