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MAKING A MARK: Williamsburg dance company encourages people to get active amid COVID-19

The lights are off for the performing arts industry due to COVID-19, but Aura CuriAtlas Physical Theatre is repurposing to tackle new challenges.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — The dressing rooms are ready, and the stage is set. But when will the curtain lift again?

"Artists are adaptable if we're nothing else... We're just finding new ways to put our performances out there," said Joan Gavaler. She and Dan Plehal are co-artistic directors of Aura CuriAtlas Physical Theatre, a nonprofit acrobatic dance company based in Williamsburg.

Like many in the performing arts industry, Aura CuriAtlas is facing uncertainty due to the pandemic. "Our work is inherently reliant on us being together in space," said Plehal. "We do partner work in storytelling that doesn't really happen when we're not together in the same room."

While much of its creative work cannot be done virtually, the company is still using virtual tools like Zoom to connect artists and audiences during the crisis. "We've taught workshops before plenty of times, but to do it digitally is a new thing for us," said Plehal. "And we've sort of had to pivot and explore different facets of the material we make that we can teach."

In addition to encouraging people to get up and move, Aura CuriAtlas is also offering creative outlets for those struggling to cope with 2020. "We can't make the contact-- the physical contact-- that can calm everybody's nervous system down and to be reassuring and kind of grounding," said Gavaler. "So, we're trying to find language that brings the same response in the body."

While COVID-19 has hampered performances, it hasn't dampened Aura's spirits. The company is looking ahead to next year, hoping to take the stage again. "As we get back on our feet and back into the world, there's a lot of new bright light that we can bring to the world through our art," said Plehal.

Auri CuriAtlas Physical Theatre holds virtual workshops twice a month. They are free and open to the public, and the next one is Tuesday, October 13th. For more information, sign up for the dance company's mailing list at https://www.acphysicaltheatre.com/contact. You can also check out the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/auracuriatlas and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/auracuriatlas/.

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