When dancer Katherine Disenhof found out her company, NW Dance Project, would be shutting down indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic (on Friday the 13th, no less), she immediately went in search of ways to stay connected and in shape.
At that point, a few virtual class opportunities had emerged, so Disenhof decided to aggregate them on an Instagram account called Dancing Alone Together.
She launched the account that Monday, and by mid-week she’d also created a website. Now, just a few weeks later, Dancing Alone Together has 22K followers—and virtual classes are more than just a growing trend, but a phenomenon that has reshaped the dance world at an unprecedented speed.
The way that Disenhof anticipated just how much Dancing Alone Together would be needed during this time almost feels clairvoyant. “It was just a quick reflex reaction to what was going on,” says Disenhof. “I didn’t anticipate the amount of classes that were going to balloon.” The website, which accepts submissions for virtual classes, now posts over 30 new classes every day, and Disenhof has expanded Dancing Alone Together to include dancemaking prompts and ways for dance artists to stay in community, as well as opportunities to watch dance performances online.
While professional dancers make up a large portion of Dancing Alone Together’s audience (and many dance educators are pointing their students towards it as part of new online curriculums), Disenhof says she’s also noticed people who haven’t danced in years tagging their old dance friends to hop on a virtual class together.
But Disenhof also made Dancing Alone Together for people like her mother, a doctor who typically takes adult ballet classes at a local studio. “She doesn’t have the time to scroll through her social media feeds for livestream class info, but has been able to use Dancing Alone Together to quickly connect with classes that bring a sense of normalcy to her day,” says Disenhof. “I hope there are other health professionals out there who are using this project for some relief.”
As for Disenhof (whose experience in arts administration and graphic design helped her launch Dancing Alone Together), the project has quickly become her new full-time job. She’s put some parameters in place to keep the volume down—no fitness or wellness classes, only one class per teacher or studio per day, live classes only—but it still requires the majority of her day.
Ironically, Disenhof has been so busy managing Dancing Alone Together that she hasn’t had time to take many classes herself. When she has the opportunity, she opts for classes taught by her NW Dance Project colleagues, or Gaga classes on Zoom. Dancing Alone Together has something for everyone, though—from Bollywood to tap to improvisation to disco.
What will happen to Dancing Alone Together once we’re able to dance in person together? Disenhof wants it to become irrelevant. “I hope we will all go back to our studios more connected,” she says. “Maybe it’ll bring more people to the studios.”
But for now, Disenhof is prepared to keep Dancing Alone Together going as long as needed. “There’s a lot of people hurting out there, and they are turning to dance as an outlet,” she says. “It’s really beautiful to see people making the best of this situation.”