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CTSA Student Spotlights: Dancers Continue To Find Their Inspiration

Sergio Camacho walks into his home dance studio to prepare for early morning Zoom dance classes. The floor creaks with each step he takes and the smallest sounds echo against the walls. He flicks the lights on and stares across the studio, remembering a time when many dancing bodies filled the space, a time when laughter echoed off the walls and not just the sound of only his steps. There is an eerie feeling of emptiness that consumes the space and Camacho is overcome by the sad energy in the room.

“I definitely miss the presence of people and the energy of people around me,” Camacho said. 

Camacho, who is studying styles such as modern and ballet, is a third year philosophy and dance major at Claire Trevor School of the Arts. Like many of us, Camacho is finding ways to adapt to the unique remote learning environment at home. Having a studio space available at home was one of the determining factors for Camacho staying home rather than returning to his on-campus residency.

 “I’m really connected to my family, and my mom specifically wanted me to ask my old studio director if I could use the space and she said yes,” Camacho said. 

Though Camacho says being in a studio space is a luxury during this time, he misses the small moments that attribute to an in person learning experience. He misses the early mornings walking to the William J. Gillespie Performance Studios with his friends and being surrounded by a community and many different energies in the studios.

 “We would all catch up for a  second before class and we were all tired because it was 8 a.m. modern,” Camacho said. 

As the spring quarter progressed and fall quarter followed, Camacho quickly adapted to the situation. The faculty and the department have been going through great lengths to make the learning experience as smooth as possible.

 “I have never felt CTSA didn’t want to help. They always want to help their students, like with getting and offering us ballet barres and squares of marley flooring this quarter,” Camacho said. 

In the beginning of quarantine, it was really hard for Camacho to begin creating work. He didn’t do any choreographing from February to the beginning of the fall quarter. Feeling uninspired and unmotivated due to the circumstances, Camacho found it difficult to even want to dance. 

“I didn’t have the space to create freely the way I wanted to … I would bounce from my parent’s room to my room and to the living room to try and find space to move,” Camacho said. 

Now that he has a space to dance and create in, he has found inspiration to begin playing with movement again. 

Camacho recently shared some of his work on his Instagram (@sergioccamacho). He shares an exploration of his versatility through improvisational movement. Being a more free-flowing mover, he experiments with juxtaposing more angular, sharp movements into his fluid moments. 

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Attempting to explore

A post shared by Sergio Camacho (@sergioccamacho) on

“It’s not direct inspiration from the world around us, but I feel fragments, frozen, sharp angles and really rough edges are things that describe America in my opinion and me and that is reflected in my movement qualities when I am attempting to create,” Camacho said. 

In addition to Camacho’s work amidst the pandemic, CTSA has many other student dancers that have been moving and grooving through this pandemic. Meet Sophia Vangelatos, a senior studying dance performance, dance choreography, and business economics. 

In early March, when the pandemic first hit, Vangelatos was incredibly determined to remain inspired and continue the projects she was already working on. With a whirlwind of thoughts and questions about future piece creations, her senior thesis and her choreography track, she focused on keeping her spirits high and staying optimistic for the future and her senior year. However, as the weeks passed, Vangelatos felt her inspiration disappearing. 

“I think a lot of people had similar experiences, where at first it was just a minor set back, but as it got more and more serious and we realized we were going to be dealing with this for a really long time, it threw a wrench in everyone’s plans and that was really discouraging for me especially,” Vangelatos said. 

Vangelatos during this time has been exploring movement by taking online Gaga classes. Gaga is a movement language that explores bodily sensations and mental approaches to movement. Besides having to adapt to a different floor texture, Vangelatos was not impacted by space restraints when participating in Gaga classes. 

For Vangelatos, UCI dance classes and rehearsal processes on Zoom have been especially difficult. Having a desire to perform and dance as if on a stage and not in a living room with distractions has forced Vangelatos to retrain her way of thinking.

“It’s been very different to refocus my brain into being ok with the environment I’m in and taking up the same amount of space in my new environment as I would as if I were on a stage or in the studio,” Vangelatos said. 

Remote learning and asynchronous-style classes have helped Vangelatos feel motivated to attend all of her classes and have sharpened her time management skills. Pre-pandemic with three majors, Vangelatos often felt too tired to attend lectures for her business economics major after dancing and therefore wouldn’t always attend classes. She would get notes and assignments from other students and self-teach herself the material. However, now with pre-recorded material, Vangelatos can take her time. Asynchronous classes present new challenges, though; there is no opportunity to ask questions or for clarification immediately in the moment. 

“You don’t get to tell your professor that the way they recorded the video was not helpful. It’s weird you miss the human to human interaction that most people learn best under,” Vangelatos said. 

In addition to her three majors, Vangelatos is also co-executive director for the UCI campus organization, Bare Bones Dance Theater. In this now-digital creative space, Vangelatos has been working diligently with her board to find ways to continue to bring artistic opportunities for students. Bare Bones Dance Theater has been around for 33 seasons and every season has a similar schedule consisting of fall auditions for their winter showcase and movement workshops in the fall and spring. With many of these programs having to be canceled or adapted to a virtual platform, Vangelatos and her team are doing their best to keep the organization sustained and financially successful.

“We’re trying to find ways to still provide the same amount of platforms and opportunities for students who maybe aren’t dance majors and don’t always have shows to audition for or always have classes to take. We’ve realized the club isn’t for dance majors, it’s for the entire campus and we’ve been trying to expand that now that we can,” Vangelatos said. 

Vangelatos is leading Bare Bones Dance Theater to expand their community even more by taking a more optimistic approach. Creative platforms that Bare Bones Dance Theater provide are inviting students and professional artists to teach and share their choreography in virtual workshops. In this virtual platform, they are no longer restricted to only LA-based artists. As a result, they have been reaching out to international artists and companies in Australia, London, Canada and New York. 

The dancers in CTSA have been continuing to work hard, dance and create beautiful movement. It’s often in times like these that the most beautiful work begins to take shape. Artists are continuing to find inspiration and motivation to keep moving. Through the exploration of their craft, these dancers keep finding things to say and stories to tell through movement.

Claire Desenberg is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2020 quarter. She can be reached at cdesenbe@uci.edu.