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From Moscow to Zoom: dancing under covid

June 23, 2020

From Moscow to Zoom: dancing under covid

LOCKDOWN STOPPED MOSCOW DANCE PLANS FOR MADISON FOTTI-KNOWLES, BUT ZOOM TRAINING KEPT HER ON HER TOES. IMAGE: AMBER SOLJAN

Lockdown was a lesson in discipline for one professional kiwi dancer who maintained her ballet training through remote zoom classes after covid disruptions.

Madison Fotti-Knowles, who grew up in Hobsonville, had recently returned to New Zealand from an overseas tour with a Russian dance company when quarantine was announced.

“I was on my way home from tour so I arrived home and two weeks later we started quarantining and two weeks after that we closed the borders,” the 23-year-old said.

Ms Fotti-Knowles says the pandemic had an adverse effect with overseas job opportunities that were extended to her evaporating.

“I had been waiting to get a year-long long-term contract with a big established theatre and I was just starting to get contract offers rolling in as this pandemic hit,” she says.

Despite the pandemic, the kiwi dancer was determined to keep training and the solution came in the form of her ex-ballet coach Nicci McEwan who started hosting remote dance classes through Zoom.

“All of her students and myself would log onto the Zoom and we’d all find a space in our house, some people used their kitchens.”

“My mum and her partner cleared the cars out of the garage and I spent level three and level four lockdown every day in my garage dancing the best I could in my space,” says Ms Fotti-Knowles.

Ballet coach Nicci McEwan, who had taught Madison for seven years, says training for dancers under lockdown was challenging but invaluable.

“Training as a dancer on Zoom takes extreme discipline. Not only are you battling your surroundings but you also miss the camaraderie of your fellow classmates and friends.”

“On the other hand it was invaluable because it gives you time to concentrate on the small details we sometimes bypass when we take regular classes,” says the dance teacher.

Ms McEwan says that other challenges dancers had to navigate were motivating themselves to get up each day to train off a screen with sound delays, wifi hiccups and dancers not having the correct space or flooring to work off properly.

Ms Fotti-Knowles says training in lockdown was additional practice in discipline for a dancer who “lives and breathes the sport and the art” after training six days a week at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography for two years.

She aspires to one day work for a Russian company and give back to the country where she trained and was moulded into the artist she is today.

However Russia’s loss for now may be New Zealand’s gain as Ms Fotti-Knowles will be flying down to Wellington to audition for the New Zealand Royal Ballet.

She says it will be an exciting opportunity to spend the rest of the year performing and training.

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