The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted several different areas of life on the Mercer campus, and social distancing has changed how many arts, sports, and clubs in Mercer operate. Mercer’s dance teams were also affected, who had to make major adjustments in their return to practice and performance.
When it all came to a halt in March 2020, Mercer Rangreli, Mercer’s Bollywood Fusion dance team, was in the middle of the competitive season.
Angel Shah is a senior at Mercer who has been with Rangreli since his first year and currently serves as manager for the team.
The group was formed in 2015 and, according to Shah, has moved from strictly speaking on campus to participating in competitions.
“It was really, really sad because we were definitely in an upward progression,” Shah said. “Last year was definitely our highlight in competition.”
Mercer’s ballroom dance team had also just wrapped up a competition at Georgia Tech and were preparing to attend more when the lockdowns began.
“We weren’t able to attend any other competitions this semester, and we had to cancel the club because no one knew what to do,” said Noah De Mers, junior at Mercer and president of Mercer Ballroom Dance.
Returning to campus for the 2020-2021 school year, the social distancing requirements were particularly difficult for these dancers.
“It’s really incredibly difficult considering how active dancing is, and a lot of social distancing is being able to be apart and wear masks,” said Vidya Ganapathy, senior at Mercer and Rangreli manager.
Rangreli used to meet and train very frequently so the team had to make major adjustments to their schedule this year.
“Most of the time we were practicing almost seven to eight hours a week, and not being able to meet each other during that time really limits the ability that we are able to come together and work on things,” Ganapathy said. .
Not being able to dance with his team members was the hardest part for De Mers.
“I think the most difficult thing is the fact that we are not able to have contact with each other which prevents us from being able to use the dance floor,” said De Mers.
The Ballroom Dance Club consists of around 15 members who meet once a week.
There is also the Ballroom Dance Team, which is made up of five members within the club who, according to De Mers, are “interested in wanting to continue dancing a little more than just a weekly basis and want to get involved in college. competitions throughout the year. “
De Mers has been involved with both the club and the team since his first year.
The Ballroom Dance Club was previously reserved for Zoom meetings, but has since received approval from the university to hold face-to-face meetings at a social distance.
De Mers said the virtual bear fair made it difficult to recruit new members and that the contactless dancing posed some challenges for the club and the team.
“I think due to the fact that we don’t have a contact dance it brought our numbers down,” De Mers said.
Rangreli hosted practices on Zoom and offered in-person workshops with less than five people to ensure safety. The team is also not participating in competitions at the moment.
Both teams start to pick up their pace and even start to perform again.
“We definitely started slowly integrating things and doing things online through Zoom practices, getting together in very small groups (…) and wearing our masks while playing,” said Ganapathy.
In March, the ballroom dance team competed and Rangreli performed at MU Miracle’s Bearthon event.
De Mers and Shah believe that despite everything, they are now closer to their teammates and can focus more on what they all love: dancing.
“Instead of just training to compete, we started practicing more for fun and to improve our own personal technique and bond with the team as a whole,” Shah said.
De Mers said there were some advantages to having a smaller squad.
“With the smaller numbers we were able to hone (our skills) a little better and enable this individual operation than if we were to have a full team,” said De Mers.
De Mers and Ganapathy hope their teams can return to normal practice and competition soon.
“I hope with the vaccines and everything, that next year – I won’t be there – but that it will be a better future for the rest of the team and that we can come back to it,” Ganapathy said.
“I hope that in the future, with the release of the vaccines and everything, we hope that we will get back to normal and that we can really have clubs as we have been able in the past,” said De Mers. .