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Performing in a quarantine The Performing Arts Department continues to create and perform despite disturbances brought on by the covid-19 pandemic.

Distance learning has created many challenges for teachers and students who are attempting to adapt in the most creative ways possible.

Students are forced to have rehearsals and practices from home. | PEXELS |

It has been especially difficult for the Performing Arts Department because of the lack of physical interaction. There are no more dance shows, choir performances or plays.

Students are unable to work one-on-one with teachers and classmates to perfect technicalities, create performances and collaborate ideas.

Despite these adversities, the Arts Department has paved a new way of performing and practicing together.

Theater

| Ivan Delgado |

Building a team of actors and actresses virtually, theater teacher Ms. Mollie Lief has crafted her Zoom meetings to be effective and interactive.

In class, students do routine check ins, warm-ups and games.

“I try not to be Zoom-boring,” Ms. Lief explained.

Currently teaching three levels of drama — beginner, intermediate and advanced — Ms. Lief began the school year with an Ensemble Building unit, which is a team building exercise that aims to create a safe space for the students to get to know each other.

Students have been working on personal storytelling and vocal training, all essential aspects of theater.

In the advanced drama class, students are writing, performing and recording original audio dramas.

The audio dramas are short, scripted, narrative podcasts made in groups with varying genres including comedy and drama. Students are also responsible for adding sound effects and editing their podcasts to learn about the podcast-creating process.

Regardless of Ms. Lief’s efforts to make her classes as interactive as possible, theater often requires physical interaction, which is difficult during virtual class.

“I'm trying to work movement into my Zoom classroom as much as I can but it's just not the same,” Ms. Lief said.

Despite the current situation’s drawbacks, drama students will participate in the Virtual Fall DTASC (Drama Teachers Association of Southern California) Theater Festival on Sunday, Nov. 15.

“At first I thought that taking theater online would be kind of difficult since so much of theater is physical contact and being face-to-face,” Advanced Theater student Dakota Threats said. “So far we have been able to still play ensemble games and work on lessons through Zoom which Ms. Lief has provided. I definitely prefer theater in-person but online is manageable and still fun.”

Ms. Leif hints that she may have something new and exciting cooking for the spring semester.

Choir and Piano

| Kayla Lee |

Aside from typical singing or keyboard practice, students in choir and piano are learning more about music history, technique and musicianship, as Ms. Brianne Arevalo, the choir and piano teacher, has been adjusting to the new virtual reality.

She starts all of her classes by playing a musical selection for her students to help them understand the material being studied in class.

Students learn about the history of instruments, styles and composers.

“They gain a better perspective about the overall goal for their sound and how to accomplish that in all of their current and future repertoire,” Ms. Arevalo said.

During class, all the classes work to better their technique and rehearse in preparation for upcoming virtual performances and projects.

Piano students are now able to practice at home thanks to the brand new keyboards the school has provided.

The Vannaires and Chamber Singers are brushing up on their musicianship and working on recordings for planned virtual choir performances which will be posted on the Vocal Department’s YouTube channel that is still in the works.

Zoom meetings pose inevitable challenges and frustrations, like lagging networks and poor internet connections, which prevent students from rehearsing in sync.

To help combat this issue, Ms. Arevalo does her warm up routines for all her classes muted to avoid confusion.

“We are trying to work around it the best we can but there is no substitute for the inspiration and creativity we can generate as human beings together in the same space,” she said.

She also requires students to send in recordings of their practices.

In an attempt to mimic typical classroom interactions virtually, Ms. Arevalo sends feedback to each student to help teach them skills and check their individual progress.

The Vocal Department is also preparing to begin creating musical compositions for their fifth annual Oratorio which will premiere online in the spring semester. A teaser will be posted on their Instagram @vnhs_vocal_program soon.

The Chamber Singers and Vannaires, the intermediate and advanced levels of choir respectively, will be joining other high schools in Los Angeles for a virtual performance in the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s annual High School Festival in May 2021.

“Choir online isn't the easiest to work with,” Ms. Arevalo said.

“Being a performance class, it's difficult to get the same experience at home as in the classroom just because you're isolated from all the other voices,” Chamber Singer Jake Stanley said. “A big part of choir is listening to the other singers and other parts, and virtual rehearsal isn't very conducive to that. However, we're making the best of it that we can.”

Dance

COURTESY OF MS. REESA PARTIDA

Making the best of her limited situation, dance teacher Ms. Reesa Partida continues her pre-covid-19 dance class routine, playing music and leading warm ups. She spends the rest of online class teaching techniques, combos and choreography.

Teaching from her classroom on campus instead of from home, Ms. Partida is able to utilize the extra space to demonstrate dances.

“If the students can't necessarily do everything fully, they can still see what it's supposed to look like,” explained Ms. Partida.

With the annual Winter Dance Show cancelled, her classes are focused on getting students to move their bodies and take a break from the long hours of sitting still during other classes.

“I am glad that we still get to have class every day and that we get to be moving around,” Advanced Jazz dancer Elizabeth Zepeda said.

The Musical Theater and Advanced Dance classes are working on video performances.

“My goal is always to create strong dancers who can express themselves through movement no matter their level of technique, and that hasn't changed,” Ms. Partida said. “At the end of most classes I ask my students if they sweat. If the answer is ‘yes,’ then it's been a good day.”

Being unable to give corrections and often only seeing half of the students’ bodies through the screen is challenging to Ms. Partida and her students.

“Dance is a visceral thing and not being together changes the whole experience,” she said.

Despite the challenges, the dance classes are working towards an upcoming performance.

Ms. Partida and Ms. Diane Hula, the second dance teacher, are planning to hold meetings with small groups of students. The meetings are for site-specific work on campus with a select group of dancers.

These meetings will maintain social distancing guidelines and all students will be required to wear a mask.

“I think the teachers are trying their best to give us their best dance experience they can through a camera,” Zepeda said. “It’s not the easiest to learn choreography or work together just because Zoom isn’t the clearest way of communicating, but right now I think we are all just trying to come up with new and creative ways to make dance work through a screen.”