Dancer Mamiko Nakatsugawa (Photo: Zoe Berg, Photo Editor)
To help those experiencing the pandemic from their homes better understand health care workers’ experiences on the frontlines, School of Drama sound engineer Daniela Hart DRA ’21 and her collaborators put together a series of dance and music videos called “Pandemic Voices.”
Hart worked closely with her business partner and choreographer Mandie Rapoza to produce videos for the series. These videos involve a collaboration between health care workers, choreographers and dancers, described by Hart as “dance plus music plus storytelling.” Each dance is inspired by a single word, chosen by health care workers detailing their work experiences. Some of these videos can be found on the website for Hart’s media company, UptownWorks.
“The Pandemic Voices project came about as a way to bridge that gap between the harsh reality of what the first-hand responders were experiencing and the community of those of us who were isolated and apart from the rest of the world,” Rapoza said. “It was a means of assisting the individual to understand the needs of the collective.”
Hart and Rapoza came up with the project idea over a series of phone calls, during which they realized they wanted to illuminate the experiences of health professionals through art. Hart said that many of their friends in the field were living apart from families because of their work, and that she and Rapoza hoped to tell their stories.
“We were very interested in trying to amplify those voices in a way that was either healing or just informative or just at least sharing their experience,” Hart said.
In the beginning, Rapoza and Hart asked four health professionals to describe their work experiences with a single word. They then passed these words to choreographers, who created dance sequences inspired by the words. According to Hart, what resulted was some of the most beautiful dancing she has ever seen these choreographers produce.
Hart then composed soundscapes for the filmed dances using special microphones that could pick up faint, typically inaudible sounds, including the sound of a coffee machine, router and lamp’s spring. In working these mundane sounds into her soundscapes, Hart said she hoped to convey the universal experience of being stuck at home during the pandemic.
One of the choreographers, Olivia Palacios, said the project demonstrates one of the ways in which the pandemic has increased the accessibility of art for the public.
“In some ways, it’s allowed us to share our work to more audiences and not location-specific audiences — that is a bonus, Palacios said. “But, you lose the magic of seeing something happen before you and feeling the energy of that experience.”
Rapoza sees this newfound accessibility as a silver lining of the pandemic, particularly in her home city of New York. “I hope that this openness to making art anywhere stays with us as a city,” she said. “Art should be integrated, and accessible — not just in a theater or a gallery. That’s very exciting to look forward to.”
Excerpts from “Pandemic Voices” are available for viewing on the Schwarzman Center’s website.
Annie Radillo | firstname.lastname@example.org