Vivake Khamsingsavath, a dancer and choreographer at the Battery Dance Company is helping frontline healthcare workers take a break from Covid-19 by adding a ‘small dose of tranquility’ into their lives.
“Imagine a wave rising and gently settling back into the calm water,” Vivake tells his Zoom class, as his arms float upward and slowly fall to a soundtrack of lapping water.
On the virtual call, healthcare workers follow his delicate, graceful movements, stretching and swaying to release tension and find a quiet moment before their next stressful shift.
“Vivake is the child of Laotian refugees who came to America during those terrible times,” says Jonathan Hollander, the founder of Battery Dance. “He has this calm voice and soothing way which has a kind of Buddhist mentality and experience behind it.”
As he takes his class through a brief set to relax and release tension, Vivake focuses on mindful movement related to breathing, inhaling, and exhaling.
“It’s something about a yogic kind of opening up and feeling the extremities, that helps take the mind off all of the horror people are seeing and experiencing all day long,” explains Hollander.
“Instead of asking for money on Giving Tuesday Now,” says Hollander, “we thought of this as an opportunity for us to turn it around and give back to the community that supports us.”
Battery Dance created a series of free, 15 minute, virtual classes for any frontline health care worker during May and June.
But participants don’t need prior dance experience, adds Hollander.
“When people see dance and they’re not dancers, they think they have two left feet – that’s not for me. But it is!”
He reminded his trainers not to include anything complicated. “We don’t need to put any more complication into any one’s lives.”
Vivake and Mira who lead the classes, designed the courses with movements that reflect simplicity and clarity.
“It’s for anybody. It has nothing to do with dance per se,” explains Hollander. “It’s just a wonderful way to release tension!”
The classes are proving popular with healthcare workers not just in New York, but also on the west coast and abroad.
“Right now, we have 8 sessions a week,” says Hollander, “but we will expand that because people in hospitals in Dallas and in San Diego are interested in joining this, and we’ve actually had people in India and Sri Lanka getting online.”
Located on the border of Chinatown in New York, Battery Dance is a multicultural dance company that Hollander describes as “a snapshot of New York…which is why people relate to us.”
March 13 was the last time his team met before Covid-19 sent them home.
“But,” Hollander smiles, “we’ve been together everyday building this presence online since March 27. We created Battery Dance TV and have broadcast over 300 programs which include a fitness class in the morning, a ballet fusion, a jazz fusion class, and different ballroom classes every single night at 6 o clock.”
“The silver lining in a catastrophe like this is that it’s bringing us together with a community of healthcare and service workers we really didn’t have a connection with before,” says Hollander.
And, from his Brooklyn home, Vivake takes his online class through the graceful movements he’s created, telling them to send positive, golden energy out into the universe.
All healthcare workers and service providers can join the virtual mindful movement sessions for FREE!
Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.
Image Credit: Battery Dance Company