Going into a semester of “hybrid learning” is confusing and seemingly different for every major and student. Many professors have simply pivoted to fully online classes; however, some courses realistically don’t have that option. While students try to keep up with the endless emails from Fordham, Ailey students have an entire other institution to keep up with.
Just as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater followed Fordham’s decision to suspend in-person learning in March, they are once again taking Fordham’s lead on setting up a hybrid model for the fall semester.
Earlier this month, Ailey sent out the “Ailey Forward Plan for reopening the Joan Weill Center for Dance during the COVID-19 pandemic” to dance students. The 70-page document outlines the center’s plan for a safe reopening. Much of the plan is similar to Fordham’s reopening plan with clauses like “Ailey will conform to the critical key metrics for reopening New York City developed by Governor Cuomo and other officials, including the local prevalence criterion, before commencing operations,” adding that they will continue to work closely with the city’s health department.
One major change to the curriculum this semester is the addition of cohorts. In order to reduce the density of classes and try to limit exposure, students are placed into cohorts where they will be taking all of their classes with the same group of dancers. Meghan Boyle, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’21, was bummed to learn that she will not be able to see all of the other dancers on a day-to-day basis like she had in the past. “I’m just happy to be able to have in person and ‘hands on’ training because it’s so necessary to the craft,” Boyle said.
Going into her final year at the center, Boyle is more than eager to return to dancing and performing as a whole. Making the best out of a tough situation, Boyle plans to use her newfound extra time from the less frequent dance rehearsals to take more acting and singing lessons. “I am crossing my fingers that there will be Broadway auditions and Rockette auditions come late fall or early spring,” Boyle said.
Additionally, Boyle seemed very confident in the Ailey Forward plan. “The Ailey Forward Plan has made me feel very safe in returning to school,” Boyle said, “and has definitely taken extensive precautions while still making us excited to dance.”
Not every student has quite as much confidence in the plan as Boyle has. Julia Fuchs, FCLC ’24, admitted that she was a little nervous about going back. “I’m happy that they seem to be taking many steps to limit the number of people in the building and make sure we are safe,” Fuchs said, “however I’m not sure if dancing and sweating with other people in an enclosed space is a good idea right now.”
Fuchs considered taking a gap year this fall. “I haven’t started college yet so this year would be a good opportunity to take a gap year if I wanted to,” Fuchs said. Ultimately, she decided that she would be coming to Ailey this semester. “I didn’t want to fall behind, and also, the idea of living in a dorm and dancing in person again is something I wanted.”
Unlike Fuchs, Jacob Blank, FCLC ’22, did decide to take an Ailey semester off and continue his Fordham classes online at home in Maryland.
“Overall I’d say that my decision to take a leave of absence from Ailey was ultimately a financial one,” Blank said. “Because of the circumstances, the Ailey School is not allowed to offer such classes as dance composition (choreography), men’s ballet/pointe, or even have performances. And since tuition is staying the same this year, I felt that it would not make sense to spend so much money, when we would not be able to take these classes, or perform.”
Blank added that the risk of a second coronavirus wave also influenced his decision to stay home. “Ultimately the decision was very difficult to make. I wanted to go back this year, to see my friends, and most of all, to dance at Ailey,” Blank said. “But in the meantime, I’m going to take some classes at my old studio here in Maryland.” Blank does plan to return to Ailey in the spring if the circumstances have changed.
While it will be sad to see fewer dancers making the pilgrimage between campus and Ailey every day, hopefully a safe fall semester will mean we can return to seeing our friends and classmates performing this spring.