Poised For Conflict At Ground Zero

I’ve seen a lot of sad back-and-forth posting on various media sites and emails sent out lately… that just makes me sad. Why do I even see these things? The things that people are writing make it seem like this pandemic, and the lack of dance in some areas while dancing still continues in others, is wrecking the civility of the dance community I live in. With such anger present, and a fair number of people taking sides, I don’t know what to expect if everyone was allowed to get together once again. If the virus magically disappeared today and there was a social dance everyone could attend tomorrow, would all of the parties fighting be able to be on the same dance floor, or would the anger start arguments and tear everyone apart?

This particular problem that raised its head recently can be traced back to two parties (look at me doing contact tracing!). One is a couple, the other a single man. These two parties are on complete opposite sides of the response to the pandemic, as I’m sure that a lot of people in your life are as well. This divide extends well beyond the world of dance, but for the purpose of this post I’m going to do my best to keep it under the dance context as much as possible.

The couple in question is a pair of dancers that met at a dance party, started dating, and seem to love going out dancing together as much as possible, and apparently nothing else. Their response to the pandemic and the shut-down of all dancing in our area has been to continue to go out dancing at any places that they can, even if going out like that is not exactly “legal” for them to do.

Through pictures that the lady likes to post, everyone knows that they have been traveling out-of-state to the state to our south where there are no restrictions on indoor gatherings right now, attending social dances at some dance studio on Friday nights. They haven’t been going every week since the drive is a pretty big time commitment, but they’ve gone to a fair number. On top of that, within our state they have been going out to gatherings where music has been playing at places like restaurants with outdoor patios, or street parties, outdoor concerts, etc.. They take friends with them to these kinds of events and they all dance together, even if there’s not really a ton of space at the venue to stay six feet away from other patrons and partner switching is frowned upon. Based on the pictures posted, when they are out dancing like this, mask usage isn’t something they like to do either.

In the other corner of this ring that started it all, we have one of our ‘favorite’ male dancers that has been mentioned here before: Mr. Grouchy-Face. I’m sure you remember the various antics that he has had over the years that have made him noteworthy enough to write about, right? If not, those are a few examples that I managed to dig up in a few minutes of looking through my notes that might give you a taste of who this guy is.

Anyway, Mr. Grouchy-Face has been quite vocal about how much he disapproves of the fact that this couple is flaunting the fact that they have been continuing to go out together frequently and dance, despite the continued orders from the governor that says gatherings of this sort have restrictions. If he is to be believed, he has disapproved of their actions so much that he has called the office of the Attorney General and Sheriffs of not only our state but also of the other state that this couple has been traveling to in order to report their actions and the potential risk they are putting others in by going to these dance parties and then coming back to our state and not quarantining themselves afterward.

He has also said that any dance studios that he hears about that are opening up to do business he will report on as well. Though the studios aren’t supposed to be doing so, it’s a known fact that there are some of the studios in the area (the ones that are still in business) that are allowing students to come in and meet with their instructors for private lessons. Since the governor’s order has kept dance studios in the state closed for so long because this state’s infection numbers have been pretty bad, it’s easy to see why dance instructors would want to violate the rule and start teaching again on the down-low. You can’t afford to eat with no money coming in, and you can only go so long listening to your stomach growl before you go crazy.

Now these two battling parties each have their arguments about why their way is the way things should be. The couple that is still going out dancing says that they are free to make their own choices about whether they put themselves at risk or not, and that these businesses they are visiting need help to keep their doors open, and so on and so forth. Mr. Grouchy-Face wants everyone to stay safe, and to not have the virus brought into our dance community to be spread around once dance is allowed to come back. Plus, he has made a lot of comments about how the governor’s order is “the law” and people need to follow it whether they like it or not, so no matter how much he personally wants to get back to dancing as soon as possible everyone needs to stay home to flatten the curve so that the restrictions can be lifted and everyone can get back to dancing sooner.

A fair number of people watching this feud being carried out online have felt compelled to add their voices into the argument, and have joined in with one party or the other. I don’t know if there’s an easy way to break down who has joined the pro-dance party versus the pro-staying-home party since I haven’t looked too closely at the people who express each of the views, so I don’t know if there is a way to categorize the people in either party. Once the debate started to get too heated, I stopped paying attention because I didn’t like the feeling of anger that I could sense in the words people were writing. You know, something something anger, something something dark side, and all that jazz, right? It’s better for me to avoid all of that.

But like I mentioned earlier, I worry that this anger that seems to be coming out may lead to a rift in the dance community when/if we are allowed to start attending dance parties freely again in the future. Do you think that these people will be able to put aside the arguments that they were having during quarantine once they are all on the dance floor again and return to reveling together in the joy of dance? Or will they find that the anger has stuck with them when they finally get to see each other in person once more, and things will come to a head?

I hope my artistic interpretation of the fracture between parties was obvious enough to not need explanation… 🙂

And how will the neutral parties who didn’t join one side or the other feel if they are in the same room as members of these two groups? Will they worry that there may be a rumble? Will someone from one group or the other try and recruit neutral parties to their cause? Will the looming uncertainty keep neutral parties home for a while until both sides manage to work out their differences and everyone knows for a fact that dance parties are safe once more?

So many questions! I have no idea when we’ll be able to answer them either. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the future. One thing’s for certain though: this pandemic is putting a lot of strain on the world of dance, and I’m fairly certain that things won’t be able to go back to the way they were beforehand. Things will end up changing because of all of this, in some form or another.

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