University of New Mexico student Cristina Tadeo is an MFA candidate in the Department of Theatre and Dance. As a dancer who often works with people in close physical contact, the COVID-19 shutdown has presented challenges to practicing her art.
Tadeo is working on her thesis project.
“My research interests are all embedded in somatics, improvisational and feminist performance practices, environmental issues, empathy, memory, and ecology.”
Tadeo is now at her home in Albuquerque. She moved here from Chicago last summer, and lives here full time but still works remotely as the manager of operations for Khecari, a Chicago-based contemporary dance company.
The public health crisis is making it hard for Tadeo to practice her art and be creative without interaction with other dancers.
“Truthfully, it is an enormous challenge. The overall stress and mental exhaustion that a lot of people are feeling right now takes a toll on creativity for sure. I think we are mostly in survival mode at the moment.”
Tadeo said self-care has been important in isolation.
“I'm really slowing down and attempting to build healthy routines into my otherwise very unstructured days. I do have some practices for supporting my creativity — mostly writing, and what I call, ‘low-stakes movement practice,’ which is basically just a promise to myself that I will move every day whether it's an online class, my yoga practice, a long walk, or an improvisational practice.”
"I create very collaboratively, so not knowing when we will be able to safely gather in a room with other artists is an overwhelming reality. A lot of live performance is predicated on an ability to be physically present with other people.”
Not being able to be physically present at her work or on campus is a big problem.
“The challenges are still evolving, but it has been tough to not have access to studio space, and the most obvious difficulty is social distancing. I create very collaboratively, so not knowing when we will be able to safely gather in a room with other artists is an overwhelming reality. A lot of live performance is predicated on an ability to be physically present with other people.”
However, Tadeo and other dancers persist in efforts to practice their art and collaborate.
In an interview with dancers for a story in the Chicago Reader, Tadeo observed, "There are copious quantities of dance and fitness offerings online right now, and it has been wonderful to see the dance community come together and creatively adapt to an ever-changing crisis. This drive from our community is fairly unsurprising. Artists are used to precarious circumstances. What has been difficult for me has been all the pressure to ‘remain productive’ or 'use the time to get into amazing shape’… I personally had to sit on the couch for a few days. I'm actively trying to overcome making myself feel bad for that.”
Tadeo was recently able to collaborate with fellow dancers at UNM in the recent Observer as Poet online concert. The video project happened when a live performance was canceled because of the shutdown. Instead of the dancers performing on stage, each one sent in a self-produced dance film featuring their own choreography that was merged into one intimate half-hour video that shows dancers at home, in the yard, with their family and pets, in a range of dance styles, from breakdance to ballet.
Twenty-seven days features Tadeo in a Wizard of Oz-like transition from black and white to color, performed to the 1979 hit song Goodbye Stranger by Supertramp. The segment costars Tadeo’s cat Sebastian.
“My intention was an attempt to capture the difficulty of maintaining creativity during this time and to a lesser extent play with manipulating time since it seems, these days, time is constantly shifting.”
Tadeo considered what lies ahead.
“I'm currently trying not to be too fixed on any one idea. As a freelance artist, I've never really had solid career plans aside from ‘don't quit.’ My plan all along has been to figure out ways to adapt and remain flexible to new opportunities and simply not to give up when things become difficult or the path seems unclear — which is most of the time.”