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Performance in a pandemic: How Yale artists adapted to life during COVID

One of the COVID-19 pandemic’s many harsh impacts has been its stifling effect on live performance. From the days when Broadway went dark to the crash of the arts economy that followed, performers worldwide have felt the consequences of the pandemic over the past two years.

The same has also been true at Yale, which is home to dozens of performance groups, not to mention hundreds of students whose academic curricula require honing their skills in front of live audiences.

But, as they say, the show must go on. And from the earliest days of the pandemic, through the recurrent waves, Yalies have taken creative steps to keep performance alive, exploring ways to engage in their craft — and connect with audiences — in safe and meaningful ways.

This spring, the campus has enjoyed a slow return of live performance, from the reopening of the Yale Repertory Theatre in February to in-person concerts at Yale School of Music. But the process has been a slow, unsteady one, forcing students, faculty, and staff to find innovative ways to convene with each other and communicate their art to audiences. They’ve produced online plays, staged virtual musical collaborations, recorded dance videos, and devised strategies that allowed technical crews to operate remotely.

More than two years since stages went quiet, we take a look back at some of these ways the Yale community found to keep performing.

Together, we adapted,” said Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker. “And with the help of technology and even the availability of outdoor spaces on our campus, our students have been able to continue their impassioned work, albeit in less-than ideal circumstances.”

Finding the ‘mood in a Zoom room’

For the Theater and Performance Studies program, whose mission is grounded in live, embodied transmission of knowledge, the pandemic presented obvious and immediate barriers. During the first year of the pandemic, including the entirety of the 2020-21 school year, social distancing requirements prevented artists from rehearsing onstage and performing before audiences in theaters.

So in February, 2021, Emily Coates, professor in the practice of Theater and Performance Studies, helped launch a new project. “Transpositions: Dance Poems for an Online World” gave artists work and creative outlets, while fostering connections for students through space.

Created in collaboration with the Yale Dance Lab — a faculty-directed, co-curricular arts research initiative — in partnership with the Yale Schwarzman Center, the project connected students with 16 professional choreographers to create digital “dance poems.”

The project helped us learn more about what the virtual space can and can’t do,” said Coates, who has a secondary appointment in the directing program at the David Geffen School of Drama. “‘Space-eating,’ a stage practice that enables performers to fly across a stage, which makes dance spectacular — is not an option, squeezed in a bedroom, dancing between your bed and dresser!”

But Coates and the other Transpositions collaborators found surprising possibilities of dancing on Zoom.

Energy exchange is possible over Zoom — that was a clear lesson,” Coates said. “You can feel the mood in a Zoom room, and you can tune in to what another mover is putting out into the space, even on mute, by really listening to their energy.”

Theater Studies professors Nathan Roberts and Elise Morrison also explored some of the profound possibilities of digital performance. The pair co-taught a course during the spring semester in 2021 year called “Alone Together: Live Performance during COVID-19.”

When Broadway shut down in March 2020, it didn’t seem clear how performance would continue,” Roberts said. “Elise and I noticed there were an astonishing amount of creative performance that occurred in the eight months immediately after that moment that was really worthy of attention and study.”

The course analyzed past digital works and culminated in an original live performance by two students over Zoom. The performance, titled “Camera-Ready,” explored themes of surveillance through a “choose your own adventure” style plot, allowing the audience to make choices that would influence the paths the show could take.

Our hope in creating this class was to help students understand that the work emerging in the midst of the global pandemic was extraordinary, but that it was actually a continuation of a long lineage of digital performance,” Roberts said.

In his role as production manager for the curricular Theater Studies season, Roberts and his colleague, Technical Director Tom Delgado, helped students and faculty use technology to create an innovative and robust virtual theater season during the pandemic.

Working with Yale Information Technology Services, they set up remote network systems so that individual actors could access the theater while stage and tech crews worked remotely. These systems allowed directors, lighting designers, sound engineers, and stage managers to control digital equipment far from the stage.

In fact, for one show — a senior project by Chayton Pabich Danyla ‘21 called “Flores caídos” — a stage manager triggered lighting, sound, and camera cues using his smartphone. At the time he was in California. For this show, Pabich Danyla was allowed to work unmasked, in total isolation in the theater, while all other collaborators worked remotely. This show, which premiered in October 2020, was the first senior project of the 2020-2021 season, and the department’s first attempt at a virtual production.

Our students are developing skills that are going to serve them in their work beyond Yale, because they’ve been practiced in crafting digital theater,” said Roberts. “It’s going to be another tool they can draw upon in making their own work marketable to producers, designers and directors.”

Finding silver linings

During the first year of the pandemic, student extracurricular groups also used hybrid formats. Rhythmic Blue, Yale’s hip hop-inspired dance group, learned dances on Zoom and recorded videos of their group dancing in-person and distanced in Beinecke Plaza. The group shared videos on social media, creating a series of virtual dance numbers.

While connecting and dancing over Zoom was lovely, nothing beats moving together and feeding off each other’s energy in real life,” said Ke’ala Akau ’22, who served as co-president of Rhythmic Blue last year. [But] during a time that often felt so physically isolating, I cherished the opportunity to simply be with people.”

The hybrid experience revealed some other silver linings.

Learning movement over Zoom comes with its own challenges such as impaired visibility of the choreographer, directionality challenges, and missing out on nuances in the choreographer’s quality of movement,” Akau said. “This made it difficult to exactly match the choreographer. However, I believe these changes allowed for more interesting, stylistic interpretation of the movements which, as a choreographer, I loved seeing.”

This year, members of Rhythmic Blue were able to resume in-person semester showcases with reduced capacity and masked dancers and audience members.

COVID-19 also disrupted Yale’s vibrant a cappella community. By developing careful public health procedures, however, campus groups were able to resume in-person performances this spring.

The Yale Singing Group Council (SGC), an umbrella organization for a cappella groups led by four senior co-chairs, helped make it possible for a safe return to in-person singing by crafting protocols. This year’s season kicked off in early September with a hybrid concert in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall featuring 16 groups singing before prospective group members.

The excitement and enthusiasm for a cappella from groups and prospective members this year was unlike any other I’ve seen,” said Grace Larrabee ’22, a SGC co-chair who is a member of the group Whim ‘n Rhythm. “The a cappella community on Yale’s campus is so special. I felt honored to have been a part of its return.”

Yale Symphony Orchestra
Yale Symphony Orchestra (Photo by Anisë Murseli)

All together now

During the 2020-21 school year, rehearsals for the Yale Symphony Orchestra (YSO) were performed virtually on Zoom, with groups of musicians split up by instrument.

Last fall, however, musicians were able to rehearse live and in real time, wearing masks. Featuring 93 members, the orchestra performs four concerts per year, plus specialty concerts such as the Halloween Show and a joint “Messiah” concert with the Yale Glee Club. Tickets for this year’s Halloween Show, which was held in person with restricted capacity, sold out in under a minute.

The fact that musicians are able to gather in one place and make music again was a breath of fresh air,” said Supriya Weiss ’24, student president of YSO.

A few weeks into rehearsal last fall, Weiss relished the energy of returning to performance. “You can hear the excitement of the orchestra in every note we play. More than anything, this past year showed me the unwavering resilience of our musicians.”

At the Yale School of Music, during the early months of the pandemic students relied on online instruction and outdoor rehearsals in response to public health restrictions, said Dean Robert Blocker.

Now, nearly two years later, the School of Music is inviting audiences to witness the extraordinary musical gifts of students in person once again. Concerts at the Yale School of Music, which are held in venues such as Sudler Recital Hall, Morse Recital Hall, and Woolsey Hall, are now open to members of the public who are asymptomatic and vaccinated.

Performing for live audiences is what drives and motivates us, and it is what inspires and offers hope to our audiences,” Blocker said. “For our students, whose optimism and spirit gave us the confidence to find a way forward during seemingly impossible conditions, this moment is well deserved.”

Article originally published at YaleNews: https://news.yale.edu/2022/05/06/performance-pandemic-how-yale-artists-adapted-life-during-covid

Ten Reasons Why You Must Visit the Maldives

The Maldives is a bucket list destination. With white sands, crystal clear seas, and idyllic tropical vibes, it is a postcard-perfect escape. The renowned Kandima resort is even considered most Instagrammable hotel in Maldives. Most people do not need any other reasons to travel to the Maldives, but just in case you do, here are ten reasons why the Maldives should feature in your upcoming vacation plans.

1. Perfect Weather

One of the best characteristics of the Maldives is its consistently warm and sunny days. The average temperature of the archipelago is a lovely 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius). Days are full of bright sunshine and the nights are slightly cooler—perfect for enjoying a drink or dance on the beach. Although the Maldives does have a monsoon season, the short afternoon rains are a welcomed relief after a hot day.

2. Luxury Resorts

The resorts and level of service in the Maldives are a class above any others. Resorts like Kandima have villas right above the water so that guests can jump into the clear blue sea for a swim whenever they want. Even if you do not live over the water, you will be situated on a breathtaking white sand beach with access to luxury amenities such as swimming pools, spas, fitness facilities, and the most incredible Indian Ocean views.

3. Range of Watersports

Watersports are a must when you visit an island archipelago. Maldivian resorts have a range of watersports that are suitable for all members of the family. Adventurous travelers can try parasailing, water skiing, or jet skiing while others can opt for the more relaxing activities like kayaking and glass canoeing. Go sailing with your family or take a romantic sunset cruise. There are endless choices to fill your days.

4. Incredible Diving and Snorkeling

Diving and snorkeling are undoubtedly two of the most attractive watersports that you can enjoy in the Maldives. The tropical reefs of the island nation boast a healthy biodiversity of marine life. The Maldives has it all—from colorful coral to adorable ‘Nemo’ clownfish and manta rays to whale sharks. You do not have to be a certified diver to enjoy these sights. Kandima has a dedicated snorkeling platform and non-divers can try a Discover Scuba Diving experience.

5. Secluded Beaches

Forget the crowded beaches of Phuket or Cancun. In the Maldives, there are hundreds of secluded beaches and sandbars that you can call your own for the day. Most resorts have an island exclusively to themselves and you will only meet a few fellow guests instead of having to deal with touts and bystanders. Resorts are also more than happy to accommodate guests who would like to arrange a day trip to remote beaches or sandbars.

6. Absolute Privacy

Aside from quiet beaches, resorts in the Maldives are dedicated to maintaining the privacy of their guests. Whether you are a celebrity trying to be anonymous or a couple that just needs some quality time, a luxury Maldivian resort can be a perfect oasis. Kandima can arrange everything from exclusive seaplane transfers to private dining and honeymoon villas where it is just you, your companion, and the big blue ocean.

7. Luxury Spas

With resorts being of such high quality in the Maldives, their spa treatments are similarly luxurious. Kandima’s award-winning spa can help you to relax and escape your worldly concerns, and it’s beautiful as well — perfect for your next Instagram post. After a long day of playing under the sun, they can rejuvenate your mind and body. The resort spa even has treatments for your young ones. If you want that enviable post-holiday glow, be sure to spend some time in the spa. You may come back looking younger than before you left!

8. Gourmet Cuisine

Maldivian cuisine is an eclectic fusion of tastes with influences from its neighbors, India and Sri Lanka. Traditional Maldivian cuisine is known as Dhivehi cuisine. Fresh seafood is the main feature and dishes are usually slightly spicy with the sweet richness of coconut. If Maldivian food is not for you, not to worry. Kandima has numerous dining options from European to Asian cuisine and will be able to cater to your specific dietary requirements.

9. Interesting Culture

The Maldives has a vibrant island culture that is just as beautiful as its natural wonders. Its multi-faceted culture boasts influences from India, Arabia, Indonesia, and Africa. One aspect of Maldivian culture that you will experience is the Boduberu. The Boduberu is a Maldivian folk performance that has its roots in East Africa. This rhythmic drum, dance, and song performance is typically held in the evening right on the beach with resort guests invited to join in.

10. Local Markets

Fridays and Saturdays are market days in the Maldives. If you get a chance to visit Malé, be sure to take in the full local experience. You can rent a scooter and explore the corners of the city or walk around the bustling produce markets. Visitors who arrive early enough will get to see the fishermen landing their catch and get the best pick of fresh fruits. Do not forget to get your fair share of handcrafted souvenirs such as sarongs, coconut jewelry, or mini wooden dhonis.

The Maldives is a unique destination unlike any other place in the world. Where else does absolute luxury exist alongside pristine natural beauty? If you have not visited the Maldives yet, be sure to add it to your bucket list.

Different Types of Digital Marketing Agencies

Nowadays, digital marketing is inseparable from commercial success in any niche or industry. In the Internet age, building relationships with, reaching out to, and targeting customers is mostly done online. 

However, “online” can mean many things; there are plenty of different digital marketing strategies, tactics, and channels that a specific digital marketing professional might use to help their clients. 

Considering the vast scope of the umbrella term we’ve come to know as “digital marketing,” it’s no wonder many great agencies focus on individual channels or aspects of online marketing.

With that in mind, we’re going to look at some of the different kinds of digital marketing agencies you might hire. 

Full-Service Agency

From a layman’s perspective, most people think of this when they hear the words “digital marketing”. It’s an agency that handles a wide range of digital marketing services. And because of the large number of in-house experts they need to nurture at all times, they tend to be bigger than the other kinds of digital marketing agencies we’ll cover here.

A company will hire a full-service agency to handle every single aspect of a specific project. They’re the ultimate one-stop-shop for any kind of digital marketing need — and they’re also called “omnichannel” agencies because they can handle your digital marketing across all online channels. 

A full-service agency will deal with everything from content strategy and creation to reporting and advertising. 

Inbound Digital Marketing Agency

As the name suggests, inbound marketing agencies deal with inbound marketing — which is the other side of the coin from traditional outbound tactics. These inbound agencies help their clients position themselves so that customers can more easily find them online, lead them through the buyer’s journey, build trust, and at some point, generate sales.

These methods can yield tangible results, but generally, over a longer period; leads and sales will frequently need six months or even a year to increase via inbound marketing. 

SEO Agency

Search engines have become more than a tool — they’re our digital appendage. We search for enough goods and services on search engines that “googling” has become its own verb. And that’s why most digital marketers will tell you the oft-repeated wisdom: if you’re not on Google’s first results page for your target keyword, you might as well not exist.

Luckily, Search Engine Optimization — or SEO — techniques help you optimize your website to be more in line with the criteria used by search engines like Google and rank higher on their search results. 

There are entire SEO agencies dedicated to that task, with a large palette of experts that work on tasks like:

  • Link building
  • Keyword research 
  • Blog and website content
  • Website audits
  • Metadata optimization

An entire subindustry has sprung around search engine optimization, and its digital marketing agencies use all kinds of complex tools to stay in line with Google’s constantly shifting search algorithm. 

PPC Agency

While SEO is a great example of inbound marketing strategies, it requires time to be truly effective. On the other hand, other short-term stopgaps can quickly generate traffic for your website — but at a higher up-front expense. 

That’s what PPC digital marketing agencies do — they manage pay-per-click traffic. There’s a global marketplace of paid traffic, where companies in specific niches bid on their most relevant keywords and receive ad placement above the organic search results. 

Also, these paid ads appear on certain social media channels with their own PPC platforms. And the digital ad agencies that manage this aspect of digital marketing are excellent at producing relevant, keyword-filled, and attention-grabbing ads — while also staying in compliance with the best practices of every individual platform they advertise on. 

Social Media Agency 

Today, most companies are expected to have an active social media presence — another aspect of corporations’ increasingly important “human face.” Naturally, plenty of companies that aren’t intrinsically creative don’t have the in-house talent or resources to maintain their social media presence at a desirable quality level.

That’s why there are entire digital marketing agencies specifically catering to this need. These social media agencies are extremely adept and producing original, enticing content daily while also interacting with their clients’ target audience in their unique brand voice online. 

Often enough, social media agencies will also organize influencer outreach campaigns or other forms of affiliate marketing to boost their clients’ brands. 

Web Design Companies

A company website is the most important part of any business’s online presentation — which is why web design agencies employ countless creative and professional designers to customize, build, and optimize web pages and entire websites for each client’s specific needs. 

Web designers are great at creating functional web pages that also stay within the look and feel defined by their clients’ brands. Some of the services commonly provided by website-focused agencies include:

  • Web hosting management
  • Web development
  • User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design
  • Research

How to Teach Creativity to Your Children

Do you want your children to be creative? Creativity can make children more curious and better at problem-solving, which are great skills to have in life. Teaching creativity to your children is not as hard as you might think. Here are some simple ways that you can help your kids become more creative. Follow these tips and watch your children’s imaginations soar!

Creativity is important because it helps children learn to think outside the box. When children are creative, they are more likely to come up with new ideas and solutions to problems. Additionally, creativity can help children become more confident and independent. Creativity can open children up to skills and hobbies that they might use and enjoy throughout their lives too, and it can be an outlet to help them deal with the ups and downs of life more generally.

So how can you encourage creativity in your children?

Engineer Creative Opportunities

There are many ways that you can encourage creativity in your children. One way is to provide them with opportunities to be creative. This can be done by giving them materials that they can use to create things, such as crayons, markers, clay, and so on. You can also give them open-ended tasks or projects to work on, such as asking them to build a fort out of blankets and pillows, or to make a collage out of old magazines.

Fill Your Home With Creative Inspiration

Another way to encourage creativity in your children is to fill your home with creative inspiration. This can be done by hanging artwork on the walls, displaying collections of interesting objects, and having a variety of books available for them to read. Have a variety of different styles and types of creative things on offer, to help your children experience many sides of creativity. From space artworks to books in different languages, don’t hold back.

You can also listen to music together, go to the theater or ballet, and visit art galleries. All of these activities will help to spark your children’s imaginations.

Encourage Them To Be Curious

It is also important to encourage your children to be curious. When children are curious, they are more likely to explore and experiment. This is a great way for them to learn new things and come up with new ideas. Try not to answer all of your children’s questions for them. Instead, encourage them to find the answers themselves. This will help them to develop their problem-solving skills and be more resourceful.

Make Time For Creativity

It is also important to make time for creativity in your children’s lives. This means setting aside some time each day for them to be creative, without any distractions. This can be done by turning off the television and putting away all electronic devices. Clear the kitchen table and put a jumble of art materials on it, or head outdoors and find ways to be creative amid nature, whether it’s collecting sticks or making up songs.

Encourage Them To Take Risks

It can be difficult for parents to let go sometimes, but it is important to allow your children to take risks when they are being creative. This means not telling them what to do or how to do it, but instead letting them experiment and figure things out for themselves. This is essential for their creativity. Of course, you should always be there to offer help and support if they need it, but try not to take over. 

Model Creativity

Another way to encourage creativity in your children is to model creativity yourself. If you are always coming up with new ideas and solutions to problems, your children will be more likely to do the same. Additionally, if you allow yourself to be creative in front of your children, they will see that it is okay for them to be creative too. When you’re out with your children, ask open questions about the world around you. This is a way of modeling curiosity, and encouraging your children to ask questions too.

Mix Up The Routine

It is also important to mix up the routine from time to time. This will help to prevent your children from getting bored and stop them from being creative. Try to do different things each day and week, such as going for a walk in the park instead of the usual trip to the playground. You could also have a picnic in the living room, or build a fort out of blankets. Come up with ideas together for mixing up the routine too. Closing your eyes and pointing to a spot on the map you’re going to visit, or booking onto a talk at the local library you wouldn’t normally be interested in will encourage a little spontaneity in your kids too.

Encourage Them To Be Persistent

Persistence is another important quality for creativity. This means not giving up when things are difficult and not being afraid to fail. Encourage your children to keep going even when they feel like they can’t do it. This will help them to develop a growth mindset and be more resilient.

Be Patient

Finally, it is important to be patient with your children as they explore their creativity. It can be tempting to rush them along or tell them what to do, but it is important to let them go at their own pace. This will allow them to fully develop their ideas and be more creative overall.

Creativity is an important skill for children to develop. As a parent, you can help your children to be more creative by doing things such as being curious yourself, making time for creativity, encouraging them to take risks and being persistent. By doing these things, you will help your child explore new sides of themselves.

How Schools Have Changed Since You Were a Kid

It’s become cliché to talk about how much schools have changed in the last few decades. While many things about schools are the same as they were when you were attending, it’s also true that there have been many changes. Unless you work in a school setting, you might not understand how schools have adjusted to a more modern world.

Many of the changes in schools depend on district choices, funding, and individual administrators. Schools with less funding will have a harder time buying into new technology, and rural schools may not have virtual learning available, for example. However, other changes, like security measures and adjustments to the standards, are more universal. For parents who may expect their kids’ school experience to be just like their own, these changes may come as a surprise.

Kindergarten is the old first grade

Kids are learning academic skills earlier than ever, and in many classrooms kindergarten is no longer considered to be preparation for more serious school. Six-year-old kids are expected to be reading, adding, and writing well before the end of the year. While expectations vary, in many cases kids are learning sight words, sounding out short words, and practicing with real books. Compulsory homework in kindergarten is common. Even the cut-off date for starting kindergarten has changed in some places, meaning there are now 4 year old children starting kindergarten.

Security is Vital

Security is probably the most visible of the changes in schools. Security is now one of the most important talking points for politicians, and with good reason. Parents are more worried about their kids’ safety at school than in the past. Features such as armed school security guards and metal detectors have become commonplace even in smaller rural schools. Lockdown and armed intruder drills are a normal part of school life now.

Tech is King

Remember learning to type in high school? Now kids learn to use the computer in elementary school, including beginning typing lessons. In addition to special computer classes, many classrooms have access to more tech gadgets than ever before. Electronic whiteboards have replaced blackboards. Children watch educational movies frequently since they are easy to access and play in the classroom.

In many schools children have access to tablets in the classroom where they use educational apps. Young children are even learning basic coding in some elementary and middle schools. Educational apps might be assigned for homework, and classrooms often use apps to help teach math concepts, practice reading, and even do digital experiments like digital dissection.

Phones in Class

Your kids are likely to use their phones for school. Whether it’s for research, scheduling, homework assignments, or learning apps, more and more kids have access to phones and internet, and teachers are embracing that. In fact, your kids might even be encouraged to use their phones during class. Some classrooms use certain apps or sites for giving out homework assignments. Children without phones in high school might actually be at a disadvantage in the classroom as teachers have come to expect them to be available.

The New (New) Math

Your kids might learn to solve problems differently than you did-at least to start with. Common core math has been criticized, but it seems to be here to stay. While kids might learn different ways to get to the answer, they’re usually taught the “old” way too. Eventually. These new ways can be confusing for parents, but they’re designed to get kids thinking about the problems mathematically, rather then simply memorizing methods. Parents can help with homework by letting their children show them how they learned to do it. In addition to helping parents understand, teaching someone else is a great way for kids to learn!

Handwriting (Yes, Really)

While it’s become a common criticism to talk about schools not teaching cursive anymore, it’s actually happening. Of course kids still learn to write by hand, but the focus on careful penmanship has disappeared. Instead, students are more likely to learn digital note taking, typing skills, how to use word processors, and coding. This shift seems to be a reaction to the changes that have already happened in the global workforce and a preparation for a more digital future. Parents that are worried about this shift can easily pick up some handwriting workbooks and teach cursive over summer break.

Homeschooling is Cool

Since the pandemic started, school has changed in many ways. In many places, education at home became commonplace, not just for a few months, but for more than a year. More children than ever before are being educated at home. Some are enrolled in public or private at-home schools. Some are enrolled in local school that are still having some virtual learning. Other families have switched over completely to homeschooling and aren’t looking back. For better or for worse, the school environment has changed, and it doesn’t seem to be going back to the way it was before.