SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — On March 19, 2020, one week after a state of emergency was declared in California, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit called World Dance for Humanity started offering free daily dance classes on Zoom to help people cope with the pandemic.
They’ve been at it ever since, seven days a week.
Class participants come from across the country and around the world for their daily dose of exercise and camaraderie to stay sane, in-shape and inspired without putting their health at risk.
Classes are composed of 40 to 50 people of all ages and abilities thanks to the class motto: “Come as you are, dance as you desire.”
World Dance describes it as a chance for singles to dance like no one’s watching, for couples to cut a rug in their own living room, grandparents to groove with their grandkids.
Besides being free and open to everyone, the class also makes a point to take participants on a new musical adventure each day. Instructor Janet Reineck, who has a Master’s in Dance Ethnology from UCLA and a PhD in Anthropology from UC Berkeley, incorporates familiar pop and rock music with more exotic rhythms and sounds from Afrobeat to Irish, Bollywood to Broadway, Mambo to Motown, Ragtime to R&B and Salsa to Swing.
It also provides a space to pay attention to individual dancers, celebrating highs and helping them cope with loss.
The class also has a charity component: every dollar donated by appreciative dancers is used to help people here at home — such as providing aid to the Santa Barbara County Foodbank and 805Undocufund.
Donations are also used in Rwanda, where World Dance for Humanity has been helping 12,000 genocide survivors rebuild their lives. In the past year, donations from Zoom dancers have enabled the organization to feed 7,000 Rwandans whose food ran dangerously low due to the COVID lockdown — lost income and restrictions on farming — a summer drought, and fall floods.
365 days of purpose, pleasure, and personal connection: a good recipe for contentment and continuity during trying times.
To join World Dance for Humanity’s free daily dance class on Zoom, you can visit their website.