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Garth Grimball: The Space to Dance

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Garth Grimball is a dancer, and like all artists, he’s struggling to cope with the demands of the new world order.

Two weeks ago, I did a virtual audition for a local dance company. I wasn’t sure what to expect but knew I’d get a good ballet barre from a favorite teacher. At this point I’m used to the shaky, insecure cadence of live streaming classes via Zoom. After the warm-up, we hopefuls were tasked with learning a solo from a company dancer. Do we mirror her or move in the same direction as she would in real life? The connection kept freezing. We couldn’t hear the music. I was careful not to bother my downstairs neighbors. When it came time to “perform” I went into a fugue state. I did some semblance of the choreography but my mind was a stream of "I hate this so much." The directors were compassionate in the awkwardness. They too are trying to survive.

Time has slowed but there’s still no time for hate or anger or grief. Crises don’t afford it. But it feels like we’ve skipped a necessary step. In the first days of the pandemic my inboxes were inundated with announcements of closures and cancellations. Now all I receive are pleas to help and invitations to online offerings. A new way to live.

We dancers joke that we all share the same $20 bill. We make up each other’s audiences. We supply the modest income and then hire each other. Before I lost my non-dance income I donated $500 across several arts organizations including the dance studio where I taught. Where I teach?

I prefer live-streaming platforms where I only see the instructor. Taking a virtual dance class and seeing all the participants is a brutal facsimile; little windows into dismembered bodies, frames of adaptation. Everyone is doing their best. Or, everyone is being and that is best.


There’s little certainty. Processing is a privilege. Solutions are needed before grief can be released. Hate is a secondary emotion. Fear is first. I’m scared. I’m lucky. I have stable housing, access to food, family and friends. I miss dancing, really dancing. I miss you all so much it hurts.

Whatever our new way of living will be, I hope there’s space to dance.

With a Perspective, I’m Garth Grimball.

Garth Grimball is a dance artist and writer based in Oakland.

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