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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

How to Slow Down the Ageing Process: Tips for Optimum Health

We all want to live a long and healthy life, but sometimes the ageing process can seem like an inevitability. Although it is to an extent, following some simple tips for optimum health can slow down the ageing process. Here are some tips on keeping yourself looking and feeling young for as long as possible.

From a scientific perspective, ageing is the process of cell and organ deterioration that leads to functional decline. This can be influenced by both internal and external factors.

Internal factors are things we have a high amount of control over, such as our diet, exercise habits, stress levels and quality of sleep. External factors include things like pollution and UV radiation from the sun. There are things we can do to control some of the internal and external factors that affect ageing. By making some simple changes to our lifestyle and diet, we can slow down the ageing process and keep our cells healthy for longer.

Here are the best ways to nourish your body so that it can fight off the signs of ageing.

Stem Cell Therapy

Growing in popularity for many reasons, stem cell therapy is also great for slowing down ageing. Stem cell therapy is the process of using stem cells to repair and regenerate damaged tissue. When we are young, our bodies produce a high number of stem cells. These stem cells help to repair any damage that is done to our cells and tissues. However, as we age, the number of stem cells in our body decreases. This decrease in stem cell production leads to a general decrease in the ability of our body to repair itself.

Stem cell therapy can help to reverse this process by increasing the number of stem cells in our body. Stem cell therapy can also help to improve immune function, general cognitive ability and muscle strength. This will help to reduce the signs of ageing and improve overall health.

Diet

We all know that including plenty of fruits and vegetables in our diets is good for day-to-day health, but this is also good for our long-term health too. Fruit and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which help to protect cells from damage. Eat a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables to get the most benefit. Also eat plenty of healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts, as these help to keep cell membranes healthy.

At the same time, it is important to limit your intake of processed foods, as these can contain harmful chemicals that damage cells. The consequences on our bodies of eating too many processed foods include developing certain cancers and inflammation, which has been linked to a number of age-related diseases.

Water

Water is vital in order to flush out toxins and keep cells hydrated. Drinking plenty of water also helps to keep our skin looking plump and elastic. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, more if you can. From a science perspective, water is essential for our cells to function. Every single chemical reaction that happens in our body requires water.

Therefore, it is essential to keep our bodies hydrated so that all the processes can happen smoothly and efficiently. When we are dehydrated, our cells cannot function properly, which leads to a decrease in overall health and an increase in the signs of ageing.

Exercise

Exercise is not only good for our physical health, but also our mental health. It helps to reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality, both of which are important for maintaining cell health. Exercise also helps to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day and include a mix of cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Cardio helps to keep the heart and lungs healthy, while strengthening our bodies.

As we age, we lose muscle mass and bone density. Exercise helps to combat this by building muscle and strengthening bones. It also helps to improve balance and coordination, which can help to prevent falls in older adults. A moderate amount of exercise is the key – too much exercise can actually lead to cell damage.

Sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for overall health, and this includes skin health. When we sleep, our bodies have a chance to repair any damage that has been done during the day. This includes damage to cells, which can lead to premature ageing.

During sleep, our body produces human growth hormone (HGH), which helps to repair cells and tissues. A lack of sleep leads to a decrease in HGH production, which can lead to cell damage and premature ageing. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep every night. The risks to our body for not getting enough sleep extend beyond early ageing – it can also lead to a number of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Stress Management

Stress is one of the main causes of cell damage. When we are stressed, our bodies produce cortisol, which is a hormone that breaks down cells. Cortisol also leads to inflammation, which has been linked to a number of age-related diseases.

It is important to find ways to manage stress in our lives so that we can protect our cells and overall health. Some effective stress management techniques include yoga, meditation, and spending time in nature. Find what works for you and make it a part of your daily routine.

How to Manage Anxiety and Stress

With so much going on in the world today, it is no surprise that many people suffer from stress and anxiety. Living with long-term stress and anxiety is not easy and it can be daunting for you to face your daily tasks. While learning to control stress and anxiety can take some time and practice, there are some tips that can help to bring relief.

Regular Exercise

Lack of physical activity, poor diet, and bad sleeping habits can worsen the symptoms of anxiety. Scientists have found a clear link between exercise and anxiety management. Regular and moderate exercise boasts many positive side effects and is thus recommended as one of the most assessable and effective anxiety management tools.

When you suffer from a period of anxiety, your body releases large amounts of adrenaline and stress hormones. Exercise can make good use of the adrenaline and burn away the excess stress hormones. During exercise, your brain further releases endorphins to uplift your mood. After exercise, your muscles are tired and are less likely to be tight and tense.

In addition, aerobic activity such as jogging or brisk walking can help to regulate your breathing rhythm which reduces the severity of anxiety symptoms. A change of environment, especially spending time outdoors in the fresh air, can also create a healthy distraction to keep you from negative thought patterns.

Watch Your Diet

Certain dietary choices can worsen symptoms of anxiety. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Consuming a large amount of sugar may give you a temporary burst of energy but the resulting dip in your blood sugar can cause you to feel anxious. Similarly, caffeine and alcohol may improve your short-term function but bring on more fear and anxiety later.

According to research, people who are malnourished may be more prone to experiencing anxiety-related symptoms. Magnesium is an important mineral that is depleted when we experience stress. Plant-based whole foods and a magnesium supplement can help you to replenish this mineral. Magnesium can also help to relax your body and regulate your sleep.

One of the most effective ways to relieve stress and anxiety quickly is CBD (cannabidiol). CBD has been found to be effective for several anxiety conditions including panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBD gummies from JustCBD come in many different doses and are a good alternative for those who prefer not to resort to pharmaceutical drugs.

Take A Breather

Breathing exercises are a useful solution for anxiety. Many people with anxiety tend to hyperventilate. Hyperventilation causes you to exhale too quickly, leading to an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. This can result in physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and chest pains which further exacerbate the feelings of anxiety.

Research has shown that consistent and frequent hyperventilation can lead to your body learning to hyperventilate even when you do not have excess stress or anxiety present. This behavior is known as hyperventilation syndrome. Research has shown that 25 percent of patients with hyperventilation syndrome end up manifesting panic disorder. Therefore, it is important to keep your breathing under control.

You do not necessarily need to take deep breaths to control your breathing. Simply slow down your breathing. Breathe in through your nose slowly and gently, hold for a few seconds, then breathe out slowly through pursed lips. Through this exercise, you can calm your body and bring the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body back into balance. This will in turn bring down your heart rate and decrease symptoms of anxiety. There are some great breathing techniques that incorporate facial massage as well. To try this, you can use gua-sha tools coated in CBD Olio Lusso oils and use circular motions on your cheeks, forehead and jaw to release tension.

Ground Yourself

When you are feeling anxious, grounding yourself can help you to regain perspective and control your response until the anxiety passes. It can also help you to release tension and allow your physical symptoms to subside. Try to practice grounding techniques when you are feeling well so that you can easily employ them when anxiety symptoms arise.

One proven grounding method is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Acknowledge five things around you that you can see, four things that you can feel, three things that you can hear, two things that you can smell, and one thing that you can taste. By turning to your senses, you can focus on what is tangible and prevent your mind from spiraling into more anxiety.

Another tried and tested method is progressive muscle relaxation. Start by tensing one part of your body and holding the tension for 15 seconds. Then, relax the muscles. You can practice tensing the same muscle group several times if required. As you move around the other muscle groups and tense and relax them, you release tension throughout your body.

A great way to center yourself to the physical world, and get out of your head, is to stimulate our sense of smell. You can do this with essential oils, incense, perfumes, and even herbs like dried sage. To make this easily accessible on the go, spray some Loxa Beauty CBD oil on your wrist that you can smell throughout the day when you get anxious.

It is difficult to struggle with anxiety. If left alone, chronic stress and anxiety can balloon into more serious mental health issues. There is no substitute for professional mental health support and therapy. But, by looking after yourself and learning how to manage your symptoms, you can build a strong foundation to address stress and beat anxiety.

What Is the Future of NFTs?

The first wave of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) rode high on the phenomenon of FOMO (fear of missing out). Driven by scarcity and the potential to buy low and sell high, collectors rushed to be part of the NFT ownership club. As the DeFi landscape evolves and communities become more collaborative, NFTs need to be more than mere items of investment. Innovation and utility should be front and center of the next wave of NFT development.

NFTs for Membership

NFTs can be used as digital membership tokens to provide access to exclusive groups. The most popular example thus far is the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC). BAYC NFTs function as badges of entry that allow holders to join a private Discord channel and access special members-only perks. BAYC has been an extremely successful test case for using membership as the core value offering of an NFT.

Where regular NFTs are driven by profitability FOMO, the membership strategy hinges on exclusivity FOMO. Holders want to be behind the velvet rope and in the company of like-minded individuals, often with similarly impressive asset portfolios. Using NFTs for community membership also helps to weed out players who are purely interested in investment and not collaboration.

Indeed, community can be considered a form of value and utility for NFT holders. However, the community in question has to provide tangible rewards for members. Many NFT collections have tried to employ this strategy and failed when they could not deliver community perks of value to their members. In the future, NFTs could be the standard entry protocol for groups that want to grow with the input from their members.

NFTs for Gaming

NFTs have extreme potential in the world of gaming and large changes are anticipated as more games are built around NFTs. Gamers are highly-invested in their digital avatars, identities, statistics, and statuses. They are willing to spend considerable sums to upgrade their online persona or unlock exclusive content that allows them to play in new worlds.

With DeFi moving into the gaming field, the decentralized nature of blockchain can power many innovative applications. Loot is an NFT project where NFTs are unique bags of items that can be used by holders across numerous distinct games. The same concept can be applied to using NFTs as gaming avatars that can be played and leveled up across multiple games, becoming more powerful and valuable with time.

The play-to-earn model is another way that NFTs are changing the dynamics of the gaming industry. Where game publishers used to own and control the gaming ecosystem, players can now contribute value and earn NFTs through interacting with the game. This paradigm shift turns games into collaborative platforms where players have ownership and say in how their gaming experience works.

NFTs for Asset Management

NFTs have been widely used for digital art asset management. As the trend continues, they may be the gold standard for artists and performers to manage their rights and licensing. With collectability being virtually non-existent since the proliferation of internet file-sharing, NFTs are helping to make digital assets valuable again through irrefutable proof of ownership.

The new NFT protocol by Charged Particles allows creators to generate multi-layer NFTs that can store various types of assets—including other NFTs—within a single NFT. For instance, a musician can create an NFT that contains nine musical tracks (each an individual NFT), a text document with lyrics, and an image file with album artwork. The NFT can even contain interest-earning social tokens that reward fans for their support.

The asset management possibilities for this new type of NFT are boundless and will impact how DeFi sectors interact with each other. One concept envisioned is a savings management application that ties into the statistics of an in-game weapon. As the NFT holder reaches a designated savings tier, their weapon automatically unlocks additional capabilities.

NFTs for Building Society

What is really interesting about NFTs is the way that they offer a social stake in a community that is always in development. By purchasing an NFT, people can support the projects and groups that they believe in. Democracy may be rare in real life, but it can exist with smart contracts. Unlike on Patreon or fiat platforms, contributors have a proven stake and can become vote-holding members of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO).

NFTs can also be used as rewards in applications to gamify positive social and environmental actions. Users can gain points towards owning an NFT by planting trees or volunteering with non-profit organizations. These NFTs can be displayed in a ‘gallery of good deeds’ and shared with visitors. There is a further possibility of users farming NFTs and donating them to certain non-project projects to help them raise funds.

As the NFT universe progresses, there may be a growing gulf between people who are only concerned with investment and those who see genuine value in building a community around a new financial reality. Regardless of the motivations of collectors, NFT creators should provide utility and innovative ways of adding value in order to truly harness this incredible technology.