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Photo by Benjamin Crain, courtesy of Alysa Anderson

The dance faculty and students of University of Arkansas at Little Rock thought that the closure of their school for the remainder of the semester due to coronavirus was the biggest of their problems.

Though the university had begun a retrenchment process in January, the dance program had widespread support among university stakeholders—and no one thought the school would eliminate the only dance major in the state of Arkansas.

So the news in early May that the university's chancellor Christy Drale had recommended the dance program be completely cut came as a shock to faculty members and students alike, who had braced themselves for reductions but not elimination.

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Photo courtesy of Susan Jaffe

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre announced today that former American Ballet Theatre principal Susan Jaffe will succeed Terrence Orr as artistic director of the company, effective July 1. Jaffe becomes PBT's seventh artistic director and only the second female director in the company's history.

Dubbed "America's Quintessential American Ballerina" by The New York Times, Jaffe comes to PBT after eight years as dean of the dance program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Born and raised in Bethesda, Maryland, Jaffe joined ABT II at age 16. joining ABT's corps de ballet in 1980, at age 18. She was promoted to principal dancer just three years later, and was a company star until her retirement in 2002. Jaffe has held a wide range of teaching and leadership positions since then, and has also choreographed for ballet companies and colleges around the country. She recently launched The Effect of Intention, a series of live and online wellness workshops and audio meditations.

Pointe spoke with Jaffe shortly after receiving the news of being named to her first artistic directorship.

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Courtesy of Lisa Lacroce Patterson

Audrey was looking at her iPad when I heard her begin to sob. My daughter's tears flowed with more intensity as the music continued to build. What was she watching that moved her so profoundly? Looking over her shoulder, I saw that it was the final act of Swan Lake. I was stunned by her emotional reaction to the story, particularly because her attention deficit disorder (ADD) usually prevents her from sticking with any one video for more than a minute. But here she was, thoroughly engrossed by poor Odette and her prince, Siegfried, for more than an hour.

In addition to struggling with ADD, Audrey, who is 14, is nonverbal, developmentally delayed and on the autism spectrum. Most of all, she's passionate about ballet.

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As a ballet teacher adjusting to the startling new world we are living in with Covid-19, I keep thinking of my dance students and the worry they must feel adapting to this stressful situation. Being stuck at home can be frustrating and scary, particularly when your ballet studio feels like a second home. I wanted to share my own experience dancing in isolation as a teenager, and what I learned from it. Hopefully my story will help buoy your spirits for the better days ahead.

When I was a senior in high school, a professional ballet career was all I wanted in my life. While training at an intensive ballet program in Virginia, I was so focused on getting a job that when I came down with an illness (chronic mononucleosis), I refused to stop dancing. Unfortunately, this caused me to become even sicker. I eventually had to fly home to Florida, where I was required to rest for several weeks. This period of home isolation felt torturous at the time, but I learned important lessons that later made my professional career much more rewarding.

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Many dancers are finding themselves with an unprecedented amount of downtime. After all, there are only so many hours you can spend taking barre in your living room or streaming at-home workout classes.

But what about that nondance skill you're always wanted to sharpen?

Whether you're finding yourself curious, cash-strapped or a mix of both, now's the time to dive into skills to strengthen—or develop—your side hustle. In light of the coronavirus, many companies are offering free or discounted online courses covering just about everything under the sun. Here's a sampling of what's available.

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