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UGA Freshman dance major speaks on her COVID-19 experience

This time last year, college freshmen were finishing out their high school senior year on computers at home. Now they are about to be sophomores after a whirlwind of a first year in college.

Isabelle Collins, freshman dance and marketing major, has had quite the experience transitioning not only to a new school, but also new dance department.

Beginning of quarantine

As Collins was finishing out her senior year completely online, she was patiently waiting to start the next chapter of her life. At that point, Collins had already made it into the dance department, however she had not gotten her UGA acceptance yet.

“The University of Georgia was one of the only schools I applied to where your acceptance into the dance program didn’t guarantee an acceptance into the school,” Collins said. “I was waiting until March to hear about my decision… so it was always kind of in the back of my mind.”

Along with taking academic high school classes via zoom, Collins also was dancing online. Her studio even had a livestream dance concert for the end of the semester. 

“My studio just kind of shut down as soon as people start getting COVID,” Collins said. “And so, I had to end my dancing career in high school dancing in my room, learning choreography and then having a zoom screen recorded show. It was definitely unsatisfactory, but at least we got to do something.”

During the summer, Collins spent her time preparing to move into college in August. She was still stuck at home but zoom dance classes were becoming more normal. She said that she got on a routine during each day, but somewhat lost a conception of time as she was indoors most of the time.

Transition to college

Classes at UGA were mostly hybrid at the start of the semester. As a dance major, Collins had to come up with creative ways to take class in her small freshman dorm. She said she always looked forward to when it was her group’s day to go into the studio.

“Dancing on zoom was kind of hard in a dorm like I remember as I tried to do pointe on a yoga mat and it just didn’t work, Collins said. “but my first time back in the studios, it felt so nice just to be in a big open space.”

The other non-dance classes that Collins took were online. Coming from out of state, it was difficult to meet people from class and relied mostly on her sorority for new friends. Collins said that even in person dance courses, it was hard to meet people because everyone danced in their squares that were 6 feet apart from one another.

Collins was able to get closer to other dancers through YCS, the student choreographed show that the dance department puts on each fall semester. The show was switched to screen dances rather than the usual live performance due to COVID.                                                                                        

Collins was in three pieces, one being choreographed by Devyn Hannon, junior dance and biology major. Despite Collins being new to the department, her contagious attitude drew Hannon to cast her in the piece.

“In her submission to my audition she was very enthusiastic and I loved that,” Hannon said.“I also really liked how she moved with the movement and took my choreography it her own way.”

Hannon said that she saw a growth in Collin’s confidence as a dancer during the process of creating the piece.

“She [Collins] was very ballet- like and technical at the beginning of the semester,” Hannon said. “And then throughout the semester she definitely loosened up and danced with more full body movement.”

Bala Saravasti, dance professor at UGA and Collins’ contemporary professor, said that it was hard to get to know the freshman dance majors because of the COVID guidelines, but still saw growth in Collins throughout this semester. “Because of the masks and distancing, I wasn’t able to get to know the freshmen as well,” Saravasti said. “But Isabelle is such a strong dancer, so I did see growth in her throughout the semester.”

Planning for the future

Collins is excited for her next three years at UGA and looks forward to hopefully having a more normal sophomore year.                                  

“Everyone’s always talking about things pre pandemic like taking pas de deux classes and being able to join the dance companies within the program like CORE or the ballet company,” Collins said. “I am so excited just to be able to fully get the whole experience,”

As for after college, Collins is unsure what her future holds, but she is confident that she will figure out how to combine both her dance and marketing major.

“[Dance and marketing] are two things that I’m passionate about so I hope I will be able to pursue [dance] as a part time career while also doing social media marketing,” Collins said.“I don’t really know how I’m going to achieve that yet, but I’ll be able to figure it out.”