Western District Health Service (WDHS) enjoyed a unique ‘hip hop’ dance experience with Sydney Dance Company’s Riley Fitzgerald last week.
Over seventy staff and their families signed up to participate in a live-streamed tutorial with Riley, to practice a few ‘hip hop’ moves and shake off the COVID-19 blues.
Since the closure of the Sydney Dance Company studios due to Coronavirus, Riley has been training, rehearsing and assisting with the Company’s live-streamed classes from his parent’s home in Hamilton.
Riley’s father, WDHS Chief Executive, Rohan Fitzgerald, says after chatting with him on the couch one day, he thought a class might be a great way for staff to take a break from the pressures of COVID-19.
“We were talking about the Sydney Dance live tutorials and I thought it might be a nice opportunity to get families together doing something fun, from the comfort of their lounge rooms. It’s been such a hectic few months,” he said.
Riley says while at home he has continued to train and rehearse for Rafael Bonachela’s ‘Impermanence’; the show Sydney Dance Company, in collaboration with the Australian String Quartet and composer Bryce Dessner was due to perform in late March, just a week after the studio closed.
“It was heartbreaking after three months of working on the show not to be able to perform, but there are some real positives. I’ve loved being home and spending time with family. We hadn’t all been together for over 12 months, so I’ve really enjoyed catching up. The Dining Room has been converted to my dance studio and it’s from here I’ve been training and teaching classes,” he said.
Riley currently teaches a Beginners Contemporary class online, with about 40 participants each week and is also involved in teaching the Sydney Dance Company Youth Ensemble.
The beginners contemporary class live-streams to people across Australia with no pre-existing skills or dance background. It is part of Sydney Dance Company’s ‘Virtual Studio’, a new online dance model to get people moving in their homes, gardens and offices.
He says the virtual classes are a real positive that has come out of the COVID-19 lockdown and he hopes they will continue when it’s all over.
“The virtual classes are a fantastic way to extend the joy of dance to people who may not have ever had the chance to participate. That is really special to me, and it’s what I loved about taking the WDHS hip-hop class. It’s such great way to connect with others who might not normally get the opportunity to enjoy dance,” he said.
WDHS Chief Executive, Rohan Fitzgerald says WDHS is keen to support the ailing arts sector, which has been devastated by the outbreak.
“Last week RocKwiz host Brian Nankervis joined us via Zoom at our staff meeting and hosted a RocKwiz style quiz, which was great fun.
While chatting to staff on Zoom he mentioned that his gigs were all cancelled at the beginning of the outbreak and said the WDHS guest appearance was his first in months.
The arts sector is so important and touches all of our lives in so many ways. We want to do as much as we can to support the arts and the people working in it, many who don’t have jobs for the foreseeable future,” Mr Fitzgerald said.