April 8, 2020

Dancing through Social Distancing with MAGMA

by joeyphoenix

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by Joey Phoenix

Movement Arts Gloucester, MA, aka MAGMA, is a center for movement practices where people of all ages can discover, develop, and create in a broad curriculum of movement styles.

They offer ballet, Zumba, contemporary, barre, yoga, heels, and so much more. Plus, in the last few months, they had started hosting community events to give the people in Cape Ann a place to go on the weekends.

And then COVID-19 happened.


MAGMA director Sarah Slifer Swift quickly realized that for the studio to stay in business, she had to make some decisions really quickly.

“First we thought we were going to stay open because we have small classes and could easily practice social distancing, but then that quickly became some streaming and some in-studio, but then we only had three people in the studio for each class. So I started streaming from my home,” she said.

The first few days were a slight learning curve but she quickly got the hang of it. The original intention was for MAGMA to keep all classes as scheduled, but then they quickly discovered that certain types of music didn’t transfer well through the new system.

So instead of stubbornly staying the course, MAGMA pared down its schedule into what would work well. The first virtual offerings were barre workouts and yoga, which quickly expanded to include intermediate ballet and advanced barre.

Then, last week, the studio hosted their first performance event – Improv from the Archives, proving that not only could classes go online, but community events could too.

“People have been so grateful to have these things that were part of their regular routine,” she explained, “and still be able to talk to the people they know. There’s something that’s really important about keeping the familiar going in this totally unprecedented, unfamiliar time.”

In addition to the people who were studio regulars where these classes were apart of their routine, the virtual MAGMA studio also made it possible for those who had never taken a class with MAGMA to do so.

“It’s made a lot of these experiences really accessible,” she added.

One of the most significant things to come out of the quarantine is the fact that many things that were just beyond the reach of most people have now become readily available. Nearly any time of the week an interested person can take a yoga class from a teacher in London, watch a live performance from someone in San Francisco, or learn ballet from Sarah in Gloucester, all from the comfort of their living room.

To find out more about what Sarah Slifer Swift and MAGMA are up to check out their website or follow on Facebook.

Click here for an up to date listing of Virtual Experiences

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