dancer outside leaping in airStudents taking dance from Associate Professor of Performing Arts Heather Castillo this fall will enter a dance studio with no walls.  

To keep dancers safe, Castillo had an outdoor dance floor built just across the street from Malibu Hall. 

“Our dance space inside isn’t big enough to socially distance properly,” Castillo said. “In this new outdoor space, students can be as much as 12 feet apart.” 

Dance students had been taking classes from Castillo via Zoom, but with an art involving the entire body, Castillo said there were definite limitations. 

“Evaluating students’ dance movements in a three by three inch square meant I was missing a lot,” Castillo said. “In person, I am able to diagnose movement and make suggestions for a better kinesthetic foundation.” 

Working indoors would also mean masks, as dancers exerting themselves expel droplets, which is how COVID-19 can spread. 

“While we’re very hopeful about the vaccination rates, there are still a lot of unknowns,” Castillo said. “So we would have to dance with masks indoors and dancing with a mask is really hard. And it hinders communication.” 

The dance space consists of three 24-by-24 foot raised platforms that have some spring in them to minimize wear and tear on dancers’ joints. Facilities Services personnel put up tents over the dance floors to protect the floors and dancers from the sun, and also installed a power strip so Castillo can play music for class. 

“When we shifted to an online format, we were forced to dance in our home spaces—bedrooms, living rooms, backyards. We had to constantly move furniture to make just enough space to move,” said Class of 2023 Performing Arts/Dance student Maddy Hitchcock. “Now being back in an outdoor space, I have had to get used to using space again. I didn’t realize how small I had made my dancing just to fit myself into my bedroom. I’m so happy to have this outdoor space and start dancing with some of my favorite people again.”  

Teaching students how to build a foundation for a lifelong dancing and physical health is at the core of dance instruction, Castillo said, as well as passing on the joy dance expression, and she believes the new dance floor under the sky will provide a dynamic dimension to that process. 

“When you’re doing floorwork and looking up at the sky, it’s amazing,” Castillo said. “It doesn’t matter where you dance as long as you’re in the same space with other bodies.” 

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