While the pandemic and election have most of us questioning where exactly our lives are headed, Cal State Long Beach dance students may provide a moment of respite, Friday, by using movement to tackle some of the big social issues of the day, expressing their feelings and experiences involving topics that include gender, race, identity, and, yes, the pandemic as part of their Fall Dance Festival 2020.

Put on by CSULB College of the Arts and Department of Dance, the two livestreamed performances will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13 and Friday, Nov. 20 on the CSULB Dance YouTube Channel.

As the department’s first virtual concert, the festival was quite an undertaking.

Twenty undergraduate students in the DANC 498 Senior Seminar class, with guidance from faculty, had to explore new ways of choreographing and collaborating behind the camera while following health guidelines. Not being able to see each other every day as they’re used to, and adjusting to working together more often remotely, was a challenge.

From Jasmyn Hamblin’s work “I AM,” in CSULB Dance’s upcoming virtual Fall Dance Festival on Friday, Nov. 13 and Nov. 20. Courtesy CSULB Dance.

“Although the pandemic has struck a period of low motivation and lack of inspiration, doing things like this allows us to feel inspired again,” said Brianna Vasquez Brosnan of the student PR team for the festival. “We hope that the audience is able to connect with what each work is saying and find the meaning behind the movement and concepts.”

Several of the works were influenced by current issues, including LGBTQIA+ rights and identity, the Black Lives Matter movement, COVID-19, and the presidential election, Brosnan said.

Student Jasmyn Hamblin’s work “I AM,” for example, reflects the dancers’ experience “navigating society’s patriarchal landscape,” while Jose Argueta’s “Severence” tackles the idea of distance, “whether it’s the mental isolation of being alone or the physical distancing we’re forced to abide by to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Many times we find ourselves at arm’s length from people, physically and mentally, hoping to find a connection that we cannot fully develop.”

From Jose Argueta’s “Severence” in CSULB Dance’s upcoming virtual Fall Dance Festival on Friday, Nov. 13 and Nov. 20. Courtesy CSULB Dance.

Student Elizabeth Smith’s “Exhibit contention, giving body” explores through dance, as well as painting and sketching, “how the conflicts we go through in our everyday lives may seem meaningless and separate from one another, yet they all come together to form a larger meaning.”

“Dance is a universal language,” said Brosnan. “People can take meaning away from it whether or not they completely understand it.”

Following each night’s performance, viewers can join a short Q&A session via Zoom with the choreographers, accompanied by ASL interpreters from CSULB’s student senior cohort and moderated by Concert Director Kaelie Osorio. The Zoom link and ID number will be included in the description box of the YouTube livestream.

For more information, visit csulb.edu/dance.

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].