David Zheng, Senior Photographer

Chayton Pabich ’21 usually sings onstage and dances in a studio. Now he’s belting Broadway and performing leaps from his common room in Morse College. 

The News interviewed six enrolled students who described the variety of adaptations and social distancing measures that allow them to still participate in dance, theater, art and chemistry, all of which normally rely on in-person contact. All of these classes, except for the two chemistry labs, now take place over Zoom. 

“I am thankful and lucky in the fact that my common room is large,” Pabich said. “But for some of the other people in the class, you can see the physical restraints of their bedroom and the limitations that that imposes.”

This semester, Pabich is enrolled in “Musical Theater Performance I” and “Technologies of Movement Research,” which are both taking place over Zoom. While the dance class is more physically constraining in the new format, Pabich noted that the theater class is especially challenging over Zoom, since the software isn’t built for the performing arts. One notable limitation is that duets are no longer possible, though the class still has a piano accompanist who can meet with students by either phone or online.

However, Pabich said that Yale worked hard to push Zoom to add intricate settings that allow for higher audio quality, such as “original sound.”

“It is very different performing to a screen than in a room,” he told the News. “Some things are inevitably lost, but it does create a different style of performance in that way.” 

Madison Garfinkle ’22, who is currently enrolled in two theater classes, agreed that the Theater Department and Yale as a whole are working hard to try and maintain the essence of the department. But she ultimately felt as though the in-person theater experience is impossible to recreate and, if she had the means to take time off, would have done so.

Alex Taranto ’23 is enrolled in “Color Practice” this semester, in which students traditionally make collages and critique one another’s work. Even though one of her majors is art, Taranto chose to only take one art class this semester, as she was worried about the online restrictions.

While some of her hesitations surrounding the Zoom adaptation have proven valid — everyone’s computer screen processes color differently, so people’s pieces look different to each person — Taranto also found that the class adapted in creative and important ways to the online format. 

“[The professor] adapted a lot of the exercises to be done through Adobe Illustrator, an extremely important tool for an artist to have some familiarity with,” she told the News. “We also have workshops in class where we learn new things about Illustrator.”

Individually, she has found the class to be fulfilling and personally enriching. However, she acknowledged that the group dynamic is lost, as people are more reluctant to talk to one another over Zoom and provide feedback. 

Furthermore, Taranto said that the context of each piece is lost, as she and her peers miss out on seeing each other’s art-making process. 

While Taranto and Pabich took classes over Zoom, some undergraduate Yalies have the option of taking in-person classes, such as “General Chemistry Laboratory I.”

Alec Chai ’22 and Sophia Zhang ’24 are both enrolled in separate chemistry labs this semester and both are attending their classes in person. Both described a lab experience similar to what might occur in a normal semester, with social distancing in place. 

The largest difference for both Chai and Zhang was not curricular, but rather in the lab procedure itself. There are no lab partners, since everyone must stand six feet apart, and the class sizes are much smaller. For Chai’s class, there are only four people in the lab at one time. Zhang estimates that there are around 15 students in each lab room and three rooms per lab time. Instead of a large lecture ahead of time, Zhang said that she is supposed to watch videos before each lab, which, she says, results in most students finishing their work early.

“The class feels about the same as a normal lab experience,” Chai wrote in an email to the News. “I wouldn’t call it particularly fulfilling, but I don’t think that’s out of the ordinary.”

There is also a remote option available. Kadidia Sylla ’24 is enrolled in “General Chemistry Laboratory I” remotely for the semester. Instead of performing the experiments herself, the teaching assistant conducts them and sends the class the recording and results.

Each class, she has lab reports and pre- and post-lab quizzes to complete.

Sylla told the News that, even though the format is remote, the class lives up to its notorious nature.

“Chemistry lab is just always going to be as intense, whether it’s remote or in-person,” she said. 

“General Chemistry Laboratory I” takes place in Sterling Chemistry Laboratory.

Madison Hahamy | madison.hahamy@yale.edu