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Everything On Hold. Wait, The Pandemic Is Over? Let's Perform

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Asheville’s Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance is a small, professional company that only operates in the summer. So in losing 2020 to the pandemic, founding director Heather Maloy hadn’t rehearsed her dancers in two years.


“For a lot of them, this is the first time they’ve been—and myself too—in a room with a group of people and no mask on and dancing,” she said during a break from rehearsal inside her dance academy. “Like, it’s a normal day.”


Even into March of this year, theater and dance companies had optimistically eyed this coming fall as the earliest they could possibly be back on stage, and many were looking at 2022 as more realistic. But with vaccinations plentiful across Western North Carolina, it seemed even the most cautious performing arts companies pivoted to schedule performances soon as they could get them on the calendar.


Terpsicorps adapted to meet the moment. Maloy, who hires dancers from around the country each season, didn’t get offers, contracts and vaccination requirements out until May. With uncertainty over the logistics of performing at its usual home, the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, the company is readying for outdoor performances with a portable stage that unfolds into a full 30-by-40-feet platform.


Terpsicorps’ program of old and new work is June 25 and 26 at Foundy Street in Asheville’s River Arts District.


“I like it for an unusual experience and an event. It’s something we haven’t done before, so that’s exciting,” Maloy said. “But there are definitely things about being in a theater that are so much easier for the dancers. For the dancers to be outside in the hot blinding sun, and the rain factor is something. I don’t want to have to deal with that stress.”


Despite no performances in 2020, Maloy was able to bank money she had raised before the pandemic for those expected shows. Her ballet academy also held classes—many over Zoom—putting the company in relatively stable financial condition.


“Because we’re a summer-only company, we had it a lot better than a lot of companies did,” she said. “We did lose a staff member, which has been very hard for me this year because I’m back to doing everything myself. But we’re OK. We’re OK.”


Matt Peiken was BPR’s first full-time arts journalist.
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