Gillmer Duran - Solidarity Toward a Brighter Future
Despite the ups and downs he has endured personally as well as those that accompany a global pandemic, Gillmer Duran is still positive about the future of the dance industry.
Currently on faculty at the School of Ballet Arizona while also working as a freelance instructor and choreographer, Duran – like many in similar positions – has needed to adapt his approach and path to accommodate the current changes in the ballet studio and to best prepare himself while the evolution of this art form unfolds.
The physical, mental, and emotional challenges that come along with these changes are balanced with the moments of joy and gratitude that he experiences throughout his daily work.
In his essay below, Duran expresses his hopes for a more collaborative and humble society to assuage the pains of the last twelve months and those that are sure to linger for some time.
by Gillmer Duran
Many things have changed since the beginning of this COVID-19 pandemic. On a personal level, I discovered that I need to be more patient, flexible, open and forgiving. I learned to listen more actively and to practice more kindness and empathy.
I currently work as a full-time faculty at the School of Ballet Arizona and at first, I went through so many stages. From fear to disbelief, and from uncertainty to some kind of reassuring calmness.
Nonetheless, despite all the uncertainty I still remain hopeful about the future of our dance industry. Fortunately, the most recent strategies for vaccination here in the United States are well on their way, but there is still much to be said about humanity’s current violent tendencies and our often contrasting ideas of progress.
I am grateful beyond any words and will never take my job for granted.
Like many of us, I went from complaining about Zoom teaching to accepting our fate and preparing with enthusiasm to keep students engaged through it. I discovered I’d rather have dance in my life that not have it at all, even via Zoom! And after seeing the happy faces on the screen, I knew that there had to be, somehow, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Every day I heard of some ballet company or art organization closing its doors and cancelling their season. I became anxious and restless trying to find a way to cope with this base-line trauma and grasp our “new reality”.
Fortunately, in my case the extremely resilient leaders at the Ballet Arizona family had done a fantastic job keeping the company and school working, the company season going. They were quick to come up with new and creative fundraising strategies, while still engaging the community with virtual and social distant performances. Our audience, supporters and community did answer the call!
And I am sincerely grateful for the generosity and the outpour of love coming from the community I now live in. Our leadership team and development staffed worked extremely hard and were successful. Their creative alternatives and combined efforts to keep supporters engaged worked. They stepped up big time and our organization is thriving because of them.
It was nice for me to see how many creative individuals in the dance community stepped up and so many alternatives were designed to keep creatives creating and audiences engaged.
Despite the loss of jobs, screen fatigue and the overall toll of the pandemic, the dance community kept supporting each other; dancers began teaching more, teachers began to study more and the need to keep up with technology became more urgent and inevitable across the board.
Now it is the job of the arts to heal some of humanity's self-inflicted wounds.
The volatility and reactive changes in our social fabric has been kind of overwhelming. There were – and still are – many folks raising their voices demanding to be heard, but not a lot of them are actually listening.
Consensus is now a word of the past. Lots of people use their platforms to speak up even louder, and their voices – in my humble opinion – create confrontation and friction instead of viable and applicable alternatives to an already divided society.
The good news is that there are new technological developments connecting creators with dancers, teachers with students, and audience with new and exciting dance content.
A couple of years ago the idea of creating and consuming virtual dance content was not really taken seriously. Now, we can say with some degree of certainty that people have opened up to a new “help-each-other” mentality by buying subscriptions and tickets to watch virtual content and support a “virtual season”.
There are challenges ahead though. A recent study published online by the National Endowment for the Arts explores how:
“For the arts and cultural sector itself, changing consumer preferences and behaviors during the pandemic -
a protracted period of social isolation for many Americans - may have longer-term effects on audience
patterns, and therefore on the livelihoods of artists and arts organizations, even when vaccines become
widely available. If the trend continues, then the commensurate loss to the nation’s artistic and creative
output may prove incalculable. Solutions to sustain the arts and cultural sector - and ultimately to help shape
what it looks like post-pandemic - will continue to depend on creative solutions that leverage all that arts
organizations, government, the private sector, foundations, and the public can bring together during a time
of urgent need.”
But the alternative or possible solutions will come from finding common ground, consensus and organizing strategies that bring our minds together to stay afloat and eventually move forward with firm steps to a brighter future.
Cherilyn's lifelong passion for ballet has opened the door to the next chapter of her journey. Her strong foundation includes training at the School of American Ballet, being a featured dancer with Hartford Ballet and Carolina Ballet, and being co-director/owner of City Ballet Raleigh. She was granted the Affiliate Teacher Award after successfully completing the ABT National Training Curriculum®. A professional career in the industry along with extensive global travel provide her with a unique set of experiences to draw upon as a journalist and audience member. Cherilyn is excited to be sharing her insight about ballet around the world.