The Hired Hand – Not just another blah-blah-blog

June 9, 2020

Ponderings During a Pandemic: Depression vs. Dance

Filed under: Uncategorized — Darcy Grabenstein @ 7:21 am

As someone who worked from home 99.9 percent of the time prior to the pandemic, my daily routine hasn’t changed much in recent weeks. Wake up early (thanks to my husband). Get dressed (do T-shirt and leggings count?). Take vitamins. Use my neti pot (TMI?). Make coffee. Grab something to eat. Station myself at my standing desk.

Wait, did I brush my teeth? What day is it?

Wash, rinse, repeat.

However, having the option to work from home and being forced to stay at home are two different things. Those who know me know I’m not one to sit still.

So while my daytime routine remained—yawn—basically the same, my after-hours routine was “dance-us-interruptus.” So long, salsa. Bye-bye belly dancing. Farewell folk dancing. Zumba? Zilch.

Because my “day” job is tied to the pharmaceutical industry, my email inbox is inundated with COVID-19 references. Between this and the media onslaught, I face a constant barrage of coronavirus coverage. And, just like the virus itself, over-exposure is suffocating. Not to mention the numerous Zoom meetings, each of us trading our cubicle for a box onscreen. No wonder I feel so boxed in all the time.

This is when I came to the proverbial fork in the road. I could fall into a funk or get my funk on, so to speak. I chose the latter. After all, dancing is my antidote to depression. Dancing is my happy place. If I must shelter in place, that’s where I want to be.

While my work inbox overflows with COVID clinical trials, my personal inbox is filled with free trials and more. FREE trial subscription to [fill in the blank]! FREE shipping! FREE downloads! For someone confined to what amounts to house arrest, the term “free” taunted me cruelly.

Curiosity—and the desire to save a few bucks—got the better of me. I’ve always loved to learn new things, and the universe (or just the internet) was now serving up a smorgasbord of free online classes. I was like a kid in a cultural candy store, ready to taste a little of this, a little of that.

My calendar, which was as empty as shelves at the local supermarket, is now crammed with virtual activities. It all began with an offer I couldn’t refuse from Philly Dance Fitness.* A one-time fee through the end of march entitled you to unlimited online classes. Oh yeah. Like a junkie waiting for her  next fix, I eagerly signed up for Zumba, Afro-Caribbean, Bollywood. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I did not sign up for the striptease class. Given my interest in anything that’s got to do with dance, you’d never know I was a ballet school dropout.

I’ve also dabbled in some poetry, penning the soon-to-be-published “Answers During a PANDEMicONIUM”—not to be confused with “Ponderings During a Pandemonium.” Aspiring writers should take advantage of the free online write-ins held by Stockton University’s Murphy Writing program. Writers are given a prompt, about 40 minutes to write, then come together to share and critique.

Have I burned out yet? Au contraire! Here’s a look at a “typical” week for me. Maybe you’ll want to check out some of these classes yourself, or be inspired to pursue similar interests online.

Sundays start with a weekly study session, followed by free Facebook concerts and ending with a weekly Israeli folk dance session from North Jersey. Mondays include a weekly foreign-language class and free Zumba courtesy of Philly’s Dilworth Park, sponsored by Optimal Fitness and Rothman Orthopedic. Dwayne, the instructor, manages some impressive moves, despite the spatial limitations of his bedroom. Of course, I round out my evening with Israeli dance sessions from Boston and California.

Tuesdays often feature one of three book clubs I’m in (yes, I somehow find time to read, in between work, dancing, classes, and board meetings). The beauty of online courses, especially those on Facebook, is that one can choose to participate without being seen or heard. This especially comes in handy when I take the free voice class offered on Tuesdays by Lambertville’s Music Mountain Theater. Let’s just say I probably should focus on dancing, not singing. I’m not quitting my day job. I’ve also tried the theater’s tap and Broadway dance classes on Facebook. Tap dancing in rubber-soled dance sneakers on a tile floor leaves a lot to be desired, just sayin’. At 7 on Tuesdays, Trevor Algarin of The ZSpot offers a free online Zumba class. Algarin has enough energy to power half of Philly. Later in the evening, I’ve got my pick between Israeli dance sessions from the DC area and New York.

Wednesday mornings begin with a weekly meditation class. At some point during the day, I usually squeeze in a yoga class. My studio in South Jersey offers both livestream and on-demand classes with a paid membership. The management has committed to maintaining the online offerings even after the pandemic has passed. This news was as soothing to me as a long, drawn-out “ohhhmmm.” You see, I bask in anonymity, refusing to turn on my video for the Zoom yoga sessions. In the studio, the instructors remind us that yoga is a practice and we should not compare ourselves to our classmates. But when the student on the next mat over has manipulated her body into a Philly soft pretzel, I can’t help but be self-conscious as I strain to touch my all-too-distant toes. In the privacy of my own home, however, I can take comfort in the fact that no one sees me wobble in my standing tree pose, waiting for someone to yell “timberrrr!”

Later in the day, there’s a folk dance session run by friends of mine in Florida. But I must admit I’m a folk dance snob. Their session is international folk dancing, which to me borders on sleepwalking. My passion is Israeli dancing, a true melting pot, with music and steps influenced by Eastern European, Russian, Arabic, Greek, Latin American and other cultures. Circle dances, line dances, partner dances. I’ve even led a couple online classes myself locally. And so I wait until 9 p.m. Eastern time to join an online Israeli dance session from California.

The highlight of my week, dance-wise, is Thursday. Early in the evening, I sometimes catch an online session—you guessed it, Israeli dancing—from outside Boston. Later on is my Israeli dance trifecta: sessions from Chicago, North Jersey and the DC area. Unlike my shy yoga self, during the Israeli dance sessions I keep my video on, reconnecting with dance friends across the country. And I’ve got to admit that I bask in my 5 seconds of fame when the session administrator highlights me dancing.

Friday, it’s back to yoga so I can gear up for Zumba Saturday. If it’s Saturday, it must be Zumba. So many Zumba sessions, so little time. Marianne Martino-Giosa, owner of M’Fierce Fitness in Bucks County, offers a Zumba 20/20/20 class (Zumba, Zumba toning, plus a mat workout). Martino-Giosa, by the way, is also known for her Mummers Parade choreography. Mary Gagliardi, based in South Jersey, also offers a Saturday morning session. Ronnie Milbar, based in Montgomery County, offers a weekly paid Zoom Zumba session (Zoomba?).

Just as Philly’s Dilworth Park offers free online classes, the city of Fort Lauderdale offers free virtual line dancing and Zumba on Saturdays. The line dance class reminds me of my summertime visits to the VanillaSoul LineDancers Monday night session in Margate. However, throughout the three-hour class (yes, three hours), I did not see the instructor’s face. I only saw her seemingly disembodied feet. This made for excellent teaching but also a somewhat surreal experience as a student.

Did I mention I’m taking an online piano course? And, not missing a beat, I tried djembe technique and rhythms with Princeton’s Drum & Dance Learning Center. I did learn something: I need a bigger drum. I tried my hand (foot?) at dance classes on Instagram taught by The Rockettes and by Debbie Allen.

Proudly wearing my “We dance virtually anywhere” T-shirt, I am not alone in my obsession with Israeli folk dance. Case in point: I participated in a 24-hour global Israeli dance marathon online, mentioned in this article, with 26 instructors and up to 1,000 dancers at a time. For me, the icing on the cake was that the marathon benefited COVID-related charities worldwide. I found it deeply fulfilling to take something I love doing and turn it into doing good for others.

1 Comment »

  1. Darcy, you are amazing! I can only wish I didn’t have people living below me who would complain if I did all this dancing!

    Comment by Sharon P — June 11, 2020 @ 2:09 pm | Reply


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