As the world navigates a new normal, owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of Bahamian schools through Tuesday, April 14, professional ballerina/dancer Courtney Celeste Spears is doing her part to keep children “cooped up” at home active by offering a free ArtSea Web Dance Series to provide dancers with opportunities to still be able to learn and dance.
Spears, a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and founder of ArtSea Dance, teamed up with ArtSea co-founder and Executive Producer Asa Cary for the series which is streaming on ArtSea Instagram Live through Friday, March 27 at 11 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) daily.
“I felt it was important for students to still move and create in the midst of such a crazy, unprecedented time. These classes bring the magic of dance into your home and bring everyone together,” said Spears.
“As we all try to navigate through one of the most chaotic times we’ve witnessed, Asa and I wanted to use ArtSea’s platform to spread love and encourage creativity,” said Spears. “Dance is a universal language understood and received by all. I figured that there was no better time to implement that principle than now.”
The Alvin Ailey dancer has also been impacted by the disease, with the company as of Tuesday, March 17 having suspended through May 3 its upcoming activities in light of the current public health crisis. The suspension means Spears herself is “cooped” up just like everyone else and currently in Florida at her parents’ home. With social distancing the buzz words of today, the web series is one way, Spears said, the outlet of dance can continue to be practiced through ArtSea Dance.
“We’ve been brainstorming for some time on how to reach our audiences more and continue to keep them engaged. I never imagined this beautiful initiative happening during such a frightening time, but sometimes, I think that’s when the most beautiful gestures are created. When we learned that students were out of school and at home with no access to dance classes, we felt compelled to fill that need and provide an outlet to kick off the morning with more love and positivity,” she said.
The web series saw 40 viewers on day one, with 115 viewers joining in yesterday.
Each session is 30 to 45 minutes.
Leading the warm-ups and session today will be Gabriel Hyman (pre-musical theater performance warm-up), with Spears herself and Deidre Rogan (high-energy workout) on Saturday, followed by Tracy Hendrickson (productivity, college-prep, resume building) on Sunday, Meghann Potter (contemporary warm-up) on Monday, Spears again on Tuesday, Zoey Anderson (modern dance warm-up) on Wednesday, Dr. Sheyi Ojofeitimi (physical therapy and body wellness) on Thursday and Hollie Wright (jazz class warm-up) next week Friday.
The web series is open to veteran dancers as well as novice dancers, and children as well as adults.
“We are all at home right now, all yearning for ways to stay active, healthy and engaged,” said Spears.
Participants join in online from right where they are and follow along. The instructor offers skills and tips on how to execute the moves correctly.
Spears – who returned to school earlier this year, enrolling in the Harvard Business School Crossover Into Business program, a semester-long program in which professional athletes develop their business acumen by working with MBA student mentors – said the course has opened her mind in more ways than she can describe.
She was the first Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer to be accepted into the program for professional athletes.
Spears danced full time with Ailey while doing the Harvard program remotely.
“It’s changed me for the better. A key thing I’ve taken away that I see being implemented within this series is the power of strong, durable relationships. It’s funny that I come home to teach every year in Nassau but have never felt closer to my home and students than I do right now. Building relationships with your audience – whether it’s the customer, sponsor or investor – ensures support needed for more growth. I’m excited to see where this all goes, but most importantly, I’m grateful to shine a light during a time like this and allow the magic of dance to enter homes all over the globe.”
Spears started ArtSea Dance in 2017 to bring a high level of art to The Bahamas through ArtSea, a weekend-long convention dedicated to helping aspiring young dancers cultivate their talent and recognize the potential in pursuing a professional dance career.
Through ArtSea, Spears’ goal is to be the bridge that connects artists of The Bahamas and the Caribbean to the vast dance world – whether it’s dancing in college to obtain a degree or dancing professionally.
ArtSea’s objective is to provide students with the tools to build their self-confidence, and to give them applicable knowledge in pursuing a professional dance career.
ArtSea is Spears’ way of reaching people. She has previously said dance is the “beautiful vessel” she has been provided to be able to give back.