"We’re all just itching to get on the stage." Performing Artists In Limbo As State Stalls in Phase 3

May 5, 2021

A photo from Quiero Flamenco's last in person performance in January of 2020.
Credit Courtesy of Quiero Flamenco

The governor’s announcement that Spokane County will stay in Phase 3 brought sighs of relief to some venues and artists. But many in the arts say it will do little to help the arts.

Most performing art groups have been completely shut down for the entirety of the pandemic, and have been holding out for Phase 4 of the governor’s re-opening plan. That, however, seems farther away than ever as the state rides a fourth wave of coronavirus cases.

So, for now, they're making due.

Monica Mota is the leader of the Quiero Flamenco dance group. She says she has one hybrid event planned for the end of May, and said she planned it under the state’s Phase 2 guidance, in anticipation of a flip-flop between phases.

“That’s what’s been happening for the last year and a half, people are trying, and they just change the rules.”

In his announcement Tuesday, Inslee said if people get vaccinated and follow health rules, there is potential for significant re-opening this summer. But Mota said she’s not convinced and said she doesn’t plan to put down a payment on a performance venue until January, at the soonest.

“It costs me thousands of dollars to produce these shows and I front the money hoping to make it back. For me, it doesn’t make sense to even plan for the summer because one, I have no idea if an audience is going to show up, and two, I don’t know if they’ll cut it back and I’ve put in thousands of dollars for something that I’ll have to cancel.”

Other performing artists in Spokane are slightly more optimistic.

Vincas Greene, founding director for Vytal Movement Dance, said it would have been impossible for his dance company to do performances or rehearse if Spokane had gone back to phase 2. He said Phase 3 still has limitations, but he may be able to do some activities outside, where he could both teach, and perform.

“Most of the businesses, the restaurants, the dance schools, they’ve really been doing their part. It’s social gatherings from what I understand, we need to watch ourselves, and still enjoy ourselves, still see our friends, but do it responsibly so all of us can move forward and get back to what is going to be a new open. Phase 3, Phase 4, and then gone with all of this.”

Performers from Vytal Movement Dance. The company has been unable to do shows, or rehearsals like they did before the pandemic as restrictions on gathering have continued.
Credit Courtesy of Vytal Dance Movement

Anne Hanenburg, a member of Cimarron Belly Dancers, said she’s hoping that another chance at staying in Phase 3 will allow her company to perform at outdoor events, like farmer’s markets or festivals when they return. She said they have been trying to do online performances and classes, but it's not the same.

“We’re all just itching to get on the stage. Every musician, actor and professional dance group I know, we’re all just dying to get out there and perform.”

Melissa Huggins, executive director of Spokane Arts, said it will be difficult for any arts organization to break even over the next year and said she is worried about their ability to stay afloat after two seasons of missed performances.

She notes that there are grants available. Spokane Arts will open a grant application in June and the State Department of Commerce announced Tuesday that it has $10 million available for non-profits and community organizations hit hardest by the pandemic.