This year has been challenging for everyone, especially our local theaters, dance studios, and anyplace where groups of people come together. As we've all learned to work around restrictions on gatherings, some organizations and individuals in the community have risen to the occasion and shone, finding ways to keep the give-and-take between audiences and performers, between instructors and students alive and kicking without jeopardizing health and safety.
Two examples are the Chatham Orpheum Theatre's Virtual Screening Room on the theater's website, chathamorpheum.org, and Adam Spencer, aka Adam in Chatham, whose vibrant online presence has included virtual dance lessons, dance video shorts and more on the studio's website, adaminchatham.com and its Facebook page, facebook.com/adaminchatham.
The two recently came together with the Orpheum's Virtual Screening Room sponsoring Adam in Chatham's DanceScape Film Experience and Analysis series, featuring an online Q&A with Bess Kargman, director of the dance documentary and Toronto Film Festival runner-up film “First Position.” The twice-weekly DanceScape series invites everyone, even complete newcomers, into the world of dance. Spencer hosts a lecture each Wednesday providing context to a film discussion the following Friday. With Spencer's guidance, participants may explore social reflections, relevancy in pop culture and other themes in the films, along with a lineup of guest speakers who share their experience in the field.
Spencer pointed out that collaborating with other arts groups, projects, businesses and non-profits is how an entity survives and stays current and relevant. A dance school is no different, he said. The need to make connections is the same, especially right now when our communities need it most.
“Dance is an evolving entity and for it to survive it needs to roll with the punches and learn to grow through adversity. When the battle is won we come out stronger and better than before,” Spencer said. “Having a growing connection with the Orpheum will offer opportunities in the future for unique, dance-related content and programming. Without this physical 'hiatus' in dance, I may never have forged this collaboration.”
Spencer explained that the idea for a film and lecture series came about through his love of film and dance, along with his desire to continue dance education without a physical presence.
“To be a great dancer one needs to be able to have heart, the movement, but also the brain,” he said. “Sometimes I feel as dance teachers we often fail to educate the brain and our bodies equally in dance and this was a perfect opportunity to fill in a lot of holes from the intellectual and educational teachings of dance.” Spencer explained that he was taught in this fashion, and he believes this has underpinned his longevity and success in dance. He wanted to impart this concept and share wisdom from his own experiences through guest speakers and also the students themselves.
“I knew that all the ingredients were there,” he said. “I just needed to facilitate and bring it all together.”
The response to the DanceScape series has been rewarding for guest speakers, participants and for Spencer. Mostly, he said, it's about connecting as a community over a shared interest and passion which they all love: movement, dance and theater.
The Virtual Screening Room was created to help the Chatham Orpheum stay true to its mission of providing cultural and educational entertainment to its audience even with the theater's doors closed due to the pandemic. Via a safe virtual presence, the Orpheum has done exactly that, adding to the popular Hungry Traveler series, musicals, Art Series and more, in addition to screenings from the Met Opera, Lincoln Center Live, National Theater, and safe and educational resources for the kids. After discovering Spencer's ongoing commitment to bringing the world of dance to his students and to the community at large despite the studio's doors being closed, it was an easy decision to join forces and share the news with Orpheum audiences. When the Orpheum reopens safely in 2021, Spencer's program is exactly the type of inclusive community event that will be featured.
“We think what Adam is doing is great,” said Christopher Martell of IMCbyDesign, the Orpheum's marketing and communications agency. “The Orpheum wants to take the passions of our audience and turn them into our programming. Like Adam in the world of dance, we want to bring more interactive series from all corners of the art world. Adam’s Dancescape format with amazing guests available for Q&A is a model we at the Orpheum have been doing for years. We know people enjoy it, as we know people have visited Adam’s website through ours. We plan to expand the format for even more realtime exchanges and dialogues.”
Martell describes the positive collaborations which have grown out of the limitations of the pandemic as an example of how a rising tide lifts all boats. Although these have been incredibly difficult times for two local businesses to be physically closed, he explained, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“We know how wonderful these events will be at the Orpheum in person. And we are so fortunate to have such talented collaborators, like Adam, who will help us deliver even more to our audience,” Martell said. “We hope that we can bring some additional attention to Adam, his Dancescape Series, studio, and what he is doing for the community.”
To learn more about Adam in Chatham's DanceScape series, Zoom-based community and discussion group, including which films are next in the series, visit www.adaminchatham.com/film-series. If you would like to attend the last two lectures of 2020, email Adam Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-514-0809.