Street solos and a flock of swans: the best new dance created in lockdown

With arts venues closed, ballerinas and b-boys are expressing themselves online. Here are some of the stunning results

Dutch National Ballet: Gently Quiet

Three months into lockdown, things have moved on in the land of digital dance, from fun Instagram clips and online classes to some serious choreography. Many of the major ballet companies have now organised their troupes, including Dutch National Ballet, whose Gently Quiet project is choreographed by the company’s creative associate Peter Leung. Eleven dancers perform solos around the empty streets and landmarks of Amsterdam, compiled into a serene, free-flowing choreography. The individual films will be released in the coming weeks.


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Inspired by social distancing guidelines and “shelter-in-place” mandates in the era of COVID-19, SHELTER offers a glimpse of how 26 professional dancers across the globe are experiencing the pandemic, and captures artists' resilience in the face of unprecedented times. Created by @reneffolsonproductions @_danirowe_ @garenscribner . Music: Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played by 13-year-old Jacob Van alongside improvisations by Thomas Lauderdale of @pinkmartini #SHELTERdancefilm At you can find information on how this film was made along with information on how to donate to relief funds and dance companies across the world to support the artists involved.

A post shared by Reneff-Olson Productions (@reneffolsonproductions) on

There is no shortage of top-flight international ballet dancers setting limbs in motion around their carefully tidied living rooms/parents’ back gardens, often fundraising for performing arts crisis funds. You can see Royal Ballet dancers rollicking to the Rolling Stones or a choreographic chain letter from San Francisco Ballet and New York City Ballet. However, sibling film-makers Alexander and Valentina Reneff-Olson’s Shelter goes one better, introducing the voices of dancers around the world (including Matthew Ball and Mayara Magri in London) reflecting on their time in isolation.

Dane Hurst’s Moving Assembly Project

Ex-Rambert dancer Dane Hurst’s Moving Assembly Project bridges the UK and South Africa, and his Beyond Borders film compiles lockdown dances of all stripes from multiple continents in a spirit of international togetherness. On Hurst’s Facebook page you can also see 21 of his own dances, freestyling his way through eerily empty central London, including a tour of some of the capital’s important dance sites.

Blow Your Style Battle

B-boy (and b-girl) dance battles normally involve in-your-face energy and heated one-upmanship – it’s very much a live art form. But French competition Blow Your Style adapted with an e-battle, dancers from around the world posting their clips to Instagram to be judged online. The kids’ battles are brilliant, some of them just primary-aged, filmed on DIY garage dancefloors and in front of their mums’ soft furnishings. Both the boys and the girls are technically fierce and they leave most older opponents well and truly (home)schooled.

Swans for Relief

Back in April, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Céline Gittens danced The Dying Swan at home, a poignant ray of light at the beginning of lockdown. Well, multiply that one ballerina by 32 and you’ve got Swans for Relief, masterminded by the magnificent Misty Copeland, a fundraiser featuring dancers from North America, Mexico, Cuba, China, South Africa and Europe performing the same Mikhail Fokine solo (including the Royal Ballet’s Francesca Hayward and English National Ballet’s Precious Adams). From Australian hijabi ballerina Stephanie Kurlow to Denise Parungao dancing on a rooftop in the Philippines, it’s a movingly universal portrait of the yearning beauty of ballet.

Boy Blue, #30byThursday

Having had to cancel two different shows during the shutdown, east London hip-hop company Boy Blue has been keeping its dancers busy. Co-director and music producer Michael “Mikey J” Asante (who outside of dance has worked with Kano, George the Poet and Brian Eno) took up the #30byThursday challenge, to make 30 music tracks in four days. He handed the baton to Boy Blue’s dancers who used those tracks to make their own dances – a powerful 75 seconds from Theo “Godson” Oloyade, one of the best krumpers out there, is well worth watching.

Bolero Juilliard

New York performing arts school Juilliard produces some of the world’s best dancers and musicians, so you’d expect its lockdown offering to be impressive. Symphonic is the only word to describe its slickly edited performance of Ravel’s Bolero, with a vast cast of current students and esteemed alumni, including Yo-Yo Ma, Laura Linney, Renée Fleming and Itzhak Perlman. It’s a witty, heartening, communal crescendo.


Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

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