Audiences and Online Reception Final Project Trailer

“Audiences and Online Reception: Before and After COVID” was a year-long project convened by Ohio State University Professors Harmony Bench (Associate Professor, Department of Dance), Yana Hashamova (Professor and Chair of the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures), Hannah Kosstrin (Associate Professor, Department of Dance), and Danielle Schoon (Senior Lecturer, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures), and funded by a Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme Special Grants Initiative.

This project sought to study the impact of COVID-19 and quarantine experiences on artistic and cultural production by examining historical precedents, considering audiences in their social contexts, and imagining possible futures based on how audiences are currently forming. The heart of the project was a year-long series of 15 curated online events responding to the impacts of COVID restrictions on both research and arts practices. In total, 48 presentations were given through these curated events, many of which were open to the public, and attracted audience members from Australia, Turkey, Israel, Germany, Austria, England, and France. Nearly 650 registrants from around the world took part in the offerings throughout the year. In addition to these presentations, a short documentary was commissioned (co-funded by the Bulgarian studies endowment) which creatively recorded Bulgarians’ responses to governments’ handlings of Chernobyl and COVID. Since the end of March, the video generated 5,000+ views and comments from around the world.

This final video trailer offers an overview of the project as a whole. Enjoy!

Final Organizer Roundtable Discussion

This roundtable by Ohio State University Professors Harmony Bench (Associate Professor, Department of Dance), Yana Hashamova (Professor and Chair of the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures), Hannah Kosstrin (Associate Professor, Department of Dance), and Danielle Schoon (Senior Lecturer, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures), comes at the conclusion of their 2020-21 project Audiences and Online Reception: Before and After COVID, funded by a Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme Special Grants Initiative.

Audiences and Online Reception: Before and After COVID examines the impact of COVID-19 and quarantine experiences on artistic and cultural production by examining historical precedents, considering audiences in their social contexts, and imagining possible futures based on how audiences are currently forming. This project asks: How does COVID-19 impact cultural production, reception, and circulation? How are artists and scholars evolving their creative practices and research methods in response to quarantine experiences? What engagement strategies are cultural institutions pursuing to develop new audiences as their venues shutter? How are online and offline audiences responding to changes wrought by COVID-19? In what ways do audiences participate in creating meaning and social narratives, particularly during unstable political climates past and present?

This Is Where We Dance Now: Symposium Report

Photo by Elena Benthaus, used with permission. Design by Regina Harlig.

My biggest project pursued under Audiences and Online Reception: Before and After COVID is the issue of The International Journal of Screendance I am guest-editing with OSU alum (2019) and now Assistant Clinical Professor at University of Maryland, Alexandra Harlig, which is forthcoming in May/June We decided to open a space for our contributors to share their work and hosted a symposium on March 12-13 and 19-20 in conjunction with the special issue. We additionally organized some roundtable events on specific topics of interest: TikTok and Short-form Screendance, The Future of Screendance, and Screendance Festivals and Online Audiences. We tweeted under #WhereWeDanceNow and all of the symposium events were recorded and can be viewed online on the symposium website:

The symposium marked what for many of us was a one-year anniversary of living with COVID, quarantines, and lockdowns as part of our new reality. When I proposed the special issue, I was slightly concerned that the pandemic was going to turn out to be a short blip, and that the issue would not feel relevant when it came out. I could not foresee the magnitude of the pandemic, and that the reason for our convening over those two weekends in March would be to grapple with what it means to make and practice dance onscreen in the midst of a virus that, at that point, had claimed over 2.5 million lives globally—a number that has increased to 3.25 as I write this in May 2021.

As with the journal special issue, the symposium considered the impact of COVID on the field of dance—where, how, why, and under what conditions we dance, now, when all dance is screendance. The symposium was on Zoom at no cost to presenters or attendees, and we were blown away by the response: nearly 300 registrants from around the world for the symposium’s 7 events (3 roundtables, 3 paper panels, and a conversation with the IJSD editorial board). As a global community, it is difficult for the screendance field to gather in person, and the burden to travel usually falls to those in the global south. We hope that this symposium was the first of many more to come, and that the new possibilities and infrastructures that arose to support the pivots necessitated by the pandemic will enable us to continue to sustain a globally expanded vision of dance onscreen.

Unlocking Corporeal Puzzles: Master Class with Danielle Agami, March 25, 2021

Choreographer Danielle Agami likes algebra’s complicated puzzles, the ones that require subcutaneous investigation to approach their solutions. Her movement class also fosters this kind of inquiry. On March 25, 2021, she Zoomed into The Ohio State University Department of Dance for a master class with participants in Audiences and Online Reception: Before and After Covid. She guided us to negotiate various interlocking qualities in our bodies to find a summary balance. She directed us to engage our spines like seaweed and our heads like helium-filled balloons (and then to re-locate that helium in our pelvises). We led our bodies by the elbows; we pushed one palm against the other with the full force of each arm, then did the same with the legs against the floor; and we retained a rumbling quake deep within our full-body investigations.

The movement exploration in Agami’s class is a kind of compositional practice, wherein participants compose the body. Her visceral, gastronomical imagery renders seaweed limbs and interstitial ribcage cartilage melting like butter. Negotiating these divergent movement qualities established spaces between my muscle fibers that made way for ascertaining renewed bodily information. As participants, we toggled between Agami’s verbal instructions and watching her and each other on our individual screens to tap into feelings of dancing together across the online distance.

Agami founded her Ate9 Dance Company in Seattle, Washington in 2012 and moved it to Los Angeles in 2013, where she is currently based. She began her dance career with eight years in the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, as a dancer and rehearsal director, then moved to New York in 2010 to serve as Senior Manager of Gaga USA. She left New York for Seattle and Gaga for her own explorations to carve her way as an artist and to establish a touring company in the United States. Her company has toured widely, stopped only by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The main change that Agami identifies in the pandemic is not to take anything for granted. And, she told us, she believes the pandemic has made people in the wider society understand the precarity that artists have long experienced. But for her, the pandemic has not been about dancing. She has made some short films to keep creating, but she was under no pretense that dancing on Zoom was any kind of replacement for dancing in the theater. Her audiences? They disappeared. She took another job and considered preparing for medical school to fulfill a long-held dream, but decided instead to continue her dance research and to establish the arts more prominently in society. Zoom has been necessary during the pandemic, but she has not given up her desire to perform in large theaters for the immediacy and power of live performance. She plans for Ate9 to tour extensively as the pandemic wanes. As we transition out of the pandemic’s peak, she looks forward to seeing more young artists take up the political charge with provocative experimentation to challenge conservative societal structures.

Composing During Covid: Master Class with Dege Feder, March 10, 2021

On Wednesday, March 10, 2021, Ethiopian-Israeli multimedia artist Dege Feder Zoomed in to The Ohio State University Department of Dance to teach a master class and to talk about her experience as an artist working in Israel during Covid. Feder’s movement practice blends the torso articulations of Ethiopian Eskesta dancing, a pan-Ethiopian dance practice focused on swiftly shimmering, rolling, and bouncing isolations of the shoulders, sternum, and belly, with improvisational-compositional explorations of Israeli contemporary dance. As the artistic director of Beta Dance Company, she makes dances about women’s kinship and collective power.

Feder led Ohio State workshop participants through an improvisational exploration, Eskesta instruction, and a compositional exercise, all based in her practices of movement and making. She began class with an improvisation working through the full capacity of each body part: head, neck, shoulders, belly, hips, arms, legs, followed by a lesson in Eskesta with double drops of the shoulders playing against upward belly rolls and ribcage quakes. Then she directed us to make short compositions based on material we had learned in the first part of class. The popular Ethiopian line dance with which Feder ended class reinforced the pan-Ethiopian connections of the practices she taught us.

Feder was born in Gondar, Ethiopia and immigrated to Israel as part of Operation Moses, the Israeli government’s clandestine operation to bring Ethiopian Jews, also known as Beta Israel, to Israel in the mid-1980s. She joined the Eskesta (later Beta) Dance Troupe, an Ethiopian-Israeli dance company founded by Ruth Eshel, when she was a student at the University of Haifa; since 2013, Feder has directed the company now known as Beta Dance Company and has also toured internationally as a solo performer. Ohio State audiences may remember Feder’s powerful solo Jalo! that takes up an Ethiopian men’s warrior call to highlight the plight of refugees that she performed in Barnett Theater in February 2020 in the weeks before Covid hit Ohio.

As she has navigated Israel’s patterns of Covid lockdowns, Feder has found different ways to keep her artistry afloat. There is no question that Covid has shuttered theatrical dance performance opportunities and streaming performances do not always go as planned. In the midst of these navigations, Feder has found an appreciation for intimate, garden-sized performances.

After making dances in her living room for months, she decided to make a dance based around a chair to represent the limitations of living and working under Covid conditions. “The Corona took your freedom, took your feet, took your legs, took your hands, your spirit, everything,” she told us in a conversation after class. The new solo, she explains, is about limitations both in terms of body and in terms of space. She looks forward to Covid restrictions being lifted in the future so she can return to the theater.

Audience engagement, Feder admitted, has been the most difficult part of Covid restrictions. “When I perform without an audience, it is sad and lonely,” she said. “You don’t have a dialogue or spiritual conversation with the audience. You are just by yourself.” For Feder, performing is about sharing her knowledge with other people and making spiritual connections with audience members. She has recently found these connections in small, intimate performances, and she looks forward to a time after vaccination when she can return to larger performance venues. While her time working during Covid has presented challenges, she has found inspiration through the restrictions. They, in turn, have created new spaces for her to share her work.

The Truth About Chernobyl 35 Years Later: A Film by Kalina Kostova

In the course “Ideology and Viewers: East European Film and Media” students discussed a 1990 Soviet film about the Chernobyl disaster, its ideological framework evident in the government and local responses and the way the director depicts them. More excitedly, students could also analyze Kostova’s mini-documentary film finished in February of 2021 and compare the ideological positions of the two films. The students found particularly insightful Kostova’s link of Chernobyl to COVID and the governments handling of each health crisis. About the ideological position of Kostova, one student remarks: “The documentary narrative criticizes the lies of the government and their cowardness. It relies on archive images and testimonies of Bulgarian women who remembered that period. One of them is a physicist and uses scientific words and graphs to support her arguments, which make her very persuasive. The documentary puts also an emphasis on the dramatic side of the situation, using sad music and showing shocking images, … .”

Another responds to the link between Chernobyl and COVID: “’The Truth about Chernobyl…’ makes a stark comparison to the effort made by conservative leaders in America and the United Kingdom to cover up information about COVID-19. Though the film is clearly biased against the Communist regimes and interviewees that offer a different perspective are not included, the lesson of the film is better understood by the comparison to the modern situation. The people, when governments decide to withhold truth from the masses, will create and circulate their own fallacious versions of reality, all the while leading to less action in resolving the situation and compounding suffering.” Similarly, yet another observation focuses on the danger of misinformation regarding health crisis: “This film highlights the effective use of silence as a form of propaganda, and how quickly misinformation spread among the people when the government and media were silent.” Some appreciated the personal testimonies, while again praising the effective comparison between Chernobyl and COVID: “I found the interview segments with the three Bulgarian women the most fascinating. Usually, in discussions of Chornobyl, we focus on Ukraine and USSR, sometimes on Belarus, but the rest of the world is left unnoticed. […] The decision to tie it with the pandemic is fascinating too, and I especially loved the comparisons of how the authorities and people expressed similar attitudes towards the two events.”



Two Filmmakers Visit Ohio State Courses and Answer Students’ Questions

Two filmmakers, Michael Idov and Miroslav Savic, participated in two of our classes and talked to our students. Michael Idov, whose TV series Optimists (Video Prime) is being used as a course material in a popular course, The Russian Spy: Culture of Surveillance, Agents, and Hackers Zoomed in from Turkey where he was shooting on location. A conversation with him attracted over 50 participants from OSU and other universities and colleges. Guided by questions prepared by Drs. Alisa Lin (who teaches the course) and Yana Hashamova, Michael Idov shared his experience of creating films in Russia as a Russian-American, about Russia’s conditions of topical restrictions and at the same time opportunities, and about working under COVID. Particularly insightful was his comment that COVID is creating new opportunities for audiences and providing new access. Particularly, he discussed the blurring of cinematic genres and of diversifying the viewing experience of the spectator. From the big screen and dark house to computer, tablet, and smart phones screens, viewers are engaging with TV and film as never before which in turn forces creators to consider experimenting with genres and platforms.

Miroslav Savic presented on the topic “The Role of Cinema in Coping with Burdensome Past” to the students in my Slavic 5457 class, “Ideology and Viewers: East European Film and Media.” He commented on two recent films by Serbian filmmaker Ognjen Glavonic, films which address the problematic conflict between Serbia and Kosovo and which have received little domestic recognition and much international acclaim. Students asked quested about the audience experience under COVID and more generally about the funding and distribution of films in the Balkans. Participants included students from the course as well as students from the Slavic Studies MA program and faculty from OSU and Kenyon college.

Announcing Spring 2021 “Audience and Online Reception: Before and After COVID” Events

Audiences and Online Reception: Before and After COVID is a year-long series of online symposia that examines the impact of COVID-19 and quarantine experiences on artistic and cultural production. Please join us for the following Spring 2021 events. All programming is FREE and open to the general public with registration.


The Role of Cinema in Coping with Burdensome Pasts

Monday, March 1st // 12:00-1:00 PM (ET) 

Zoom // Registration Required //

Whether it is used to glorify cultural identities, as an incubator for stereotypes and prejudice or to promote diversity, cinema shapes public opinion. In this talk, Miroslav Savić will discuss the role film plays in the cacophonic atmosphere of the post-Yugoslavian cultural space where the old unified cultural model transforms into the multitude of new, still maturing models. If three sides tell three different stories about the same event, is there hope for reconciliation? He will argue that the new generation of artists, children of those who directly participated in the conflict, may have the key.

Miroslav Savić is a Serbian film director, writer, and teacher. He wrote and directed several short fiction movies and several theatre plays. He taught film production and directing actors at Columbus College of Art & Design (2019-2020). He currently works on an artistic research project that aims to examine complementary roles of documentary and fiction filmmaking methods and the potential of hybrid film to overcome limitations of clean-cut genres.


Movement Practice with Dege Feder

Wednesday, March 10th // 8:30-10:00 AM (ET)

Zoom // Registration Required //

Dege Feder is a choreographer, dancer, artistic director, and musician. She danced solo parts in Eskesta Dance Troupe and was among the founding dancers of Beta Dance Troupe. She has served as Beta’s artistic director and choreographer since 2013. She has performed in many international festivals in Germany, France, Columbia, Croatia, South Africa, USA, and more.

The movement practice workshop will be based on a movement language that was developed by Dege in her work with Beta Dance Troupe. This language combines techniques and styles from traditional Ethiopian dance adapted and combined with contemporary dance. The workshop will focus mainly on the Eskesta dance style that concentrates on the upper parts of the body and particularly on the shoulders. This event will feature a question-and-answer session moderated by Dr. Hannah Kosstrin, Associate Professor of Dance.


This is Where We Dance Now: Covid-19 and the New and Next in Dance Onscreen

Online symposium and special issue of The International Journal of Screendance

Friday, March 12th // 8:00-9:15 PM (ET)

Saturday, March 13th // 12:00-1:15 PM (ET) // 2:00-3:15 PM (ET)

Friday, March 19th // 8:00-9:15 PM (ET)

Saturday, March 20th // 8:00-9:15 PM (ET) // 2:00-3:15 PM (ET)

Zoom // Registration Required //

Join “Audiences and Online Reception: Before and After COVID” for an online symposium where authors from the forthcoming special issue of The International Journal for Screendance share their perspectives on how COVID-19 has rewritten the playbook for dance onscreen and dance online.

Activities once on the sidelines of the dance field are the new normal: teaching technique on Zoom, holding online dance film festivals, DJing house parties on Instagram, streaming archival performance documentation, making TikToks. This Is Where We Dance Now will critically examine the changes to dance and screendance practices unfolding in the current era of quarantine and social distancing. Although the long-term implications of this upheaval remain to be seen, for now, we are seeing the culmination of a trend that has been developing over the past two decades or more: now all dance is screendance. For more information about this free symposium, visit


Composition with Danielle Agami

Thursday, March 25th // 3:30-5:00 PM (ET)

Zoom // Registration Required //

Israeli choreographer Danielle Agami founded Ate9 as a platform for innovative movement and artistic research. With Ate9 she has created choreographies and numerous site-specific performances and collaborations with local LA institutions. Before founding her own company, Agami danced with Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company where she was appointed rehearsal director from 2007-10.

Agami will led a composition master class that will bring participants both inwards and outwards. Class will explain, ignite, and experience a generous exchange of ideas for movement and expression. This event will feature a question-and-answer session moderated by Dr. Hannah Kosstrin, Associate Professor of Dance.

If you require an accommodation such as live captioning or interpretation to participate in this event, please contact Lyndsey Vader at Requests made two weeks before the event will generally allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date.

This series is made possible through a Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme Special Grant. For more information on upcoming events, visit

“Just like this virus, music is universal”: Turkish Hip-Hop performance and discussion with Tahribad-ı İsyan, November 13, 2020

Tahribad-ı İsyan rapping from their studio in Istanbul at the virtual event on November 13, 2020

How do we experience a concert in Zoom? How do the performers convey the energy of their music on a computer screen? How do we, as audience members watching from home, choose to show that we are listening? These are some of the questions we asked and began to answer at the virtual concert presented by Turkish hip-hop group, Tahribad-ı İsyan, on November 13, 2020. The audience was made up of OSU students and faculty, as well as scholars and activists as far afield as Turkey, Germany, and Austin, TX. After a presentation about the origins of the group by their mentor and friend, activist Ms. Funda Oral (available on our Archives page), the two hip-hop artists, Asil and Burak, performed five of their hit songs and then participated in a question and answer session with the audience. When we transitioned from the presentation to the performance, I asked the audience members to consider turning their cameras on so that Asil and Burak could see them. As a teacher who made the move to online education this year due to COVID-19, I empathize with how difficult it can be to engage with a sea of black screens and the lack of physical cues or feedback.

The first song they performed, “Çamur” (Mud) (, is about always remembering where you come from. As Asil and Burak traded lyrics about their neighborhood over a slow and steady beat, I put my Zoom window on gallery view so I could see the other audience members. One of my students was immediately up and dancing. Others, like me, remained seated but moved our heads, hands, or torsos to the beat. I registered pleasure and surprise on the faces of some as the song built and Burak began punctuating his rap with trills (rolled Rs). Asil and Burak couldn’t jump around the stage as usual, but they were giving it their all, dancing in their seats and performing to the camera. They went on to perform their songs, “Geri Dönemem” (, “Leyla” (, “Ghetto Star” (, and “Alev Alev” ( In between, they were all laughter and humble thanks, taking a few minutes to explain the next song and reach out to the audience with the few English phrases they know: “Like that!”, “Let’s go!”, “Thanks!”, “Next station.”, “That’s it.” When they were done, everyone briefly unmuted ourselves so that they could hear our applause.

During the question and answer session, Asil and Burak admitted that giving a concert online isn’t the same experience as in person, but that if they were able to transmit a bit of energy to us, they are happy. They are taking the pandemic as an opportunity to slow down and be creative, giving this time to writing new songs and recording in the studio. They hope to reach a global audience with their new album and music videos, but they also look forward to being able to perform live again, to getting together with the neighborhood kids, and to teaching hip-hop to children again. “Music is a tool,” Burak explained, “to communicate with youth across the world.”

I had asked my students to consider what is lost and what is gained in sharing live music through Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it wasn’t the collective effervescence that artists and audience members often experience at a live hip-hop concert, this virtual experience offered a rare chance to get to know the artists and created a kind of intimacy that large concerts do not. In written responses that my students later submitted, some admitted that they found the experience awkward and didn’t feel comfortable turning on their cameras. But many others expressed positive responses. One student wrote, “It really solidified for me the idea that music is truly universal, and good music can be recognized no matter what language it may be in. This presentation made me understand just how powerful music is.” Another wrote, ” I most likely never would have had the opportunity to hear Tahribad-i Isyan perform live, so it was a special experience! I think one perk of seeing performers perform virtually is that there is less spectacle; the performances are more ‘stripped down’ and audiences are able to appreciate the talent and passion of the musicians even more because they are able to put out committed and skilled performances without having as much crowd energy off of which to play.” And one student concluded, simply, “Just like this virus, music is universal.”

(See the Archives page for the Zoom video recording and event transcript. If you would like access to the PowerPoint presentation, please email

“There Is No Prize at the End of the Movement”: Master Class with Alon Karniel, November 2, 2020

There are few things that feel satisfying or like good translations for connecting with people in our Covid-circumscribed videoconferencing world. But on November 2, 2020, we were thrilled when participants in Audiences and Online Reception experienced a connective Internet-kinesthetic experience during dance artist Alon Karniel’s master class in The Feldenkrais Method®. This somatic practice, developed by Russian-Israeli movement theorist Moshe Feldenkrais, focuses on practitioners heightening their attention to small actions in their bodies through minimal effort to foster sensitivity, being in the moment, and a pleasant experience. Karniel guided us through an Awareness Through Movement® Feldenkrais session on Zoom, and then answered questions about what it has been like to be a working artist during the pandemic. His instruction midway through class, as we coordinated the biomechanics of sliding one palm against the surface of the opposite thigh that itself was wrapped around the other leg, “There is no prize at the end of the movement,” reminded us to attune fully to the moment. Taking a proverbial step back, this instruction to do a thing fully bolsters our reserve against other encounters that come. This moment reminded me of dance theorist Ann Cooper Albright’s discussion about how somatic practices can train us for social justice.

Even though I was lying on a mat in my living room by myself, I felt as though Karniel was right there with me, his instructions so clear and themselves so kinesthetically descriptive that it felt like we were in the same room together. When he gave guidance to the group, I felt the attentive presence of the other people in the class with me as well. Some of the questions we are asking in Audiences and Online Reception are about “after Covid.” While many aspects of dancing and audiencing have not made satisfying transitions to the screen, it was gratifying to feel that Karniel’s Feldenkrais class did, with the ease and release of effort that he stressed in doing the biomechanical sequences. After Covid, we are going to make choices in our hybrid world. We will choose to return to doing some things in person, and we will choose to continue doing some things online. One of the possibilities that Covid has created, paired with the development of videoconferencing technology, is that we can be connected to Karniel in Tel Aviv and take his class there from our internet portal in Ohio, during and after the pandemic.

During Covid, Karniel is teaching, rehearsal directing, and working with students in Haifa and Jerusalem in addition to his home base in Tel Aviv. Israel has gone through patterns of lockdowns and openings, lockdowns and openings since March 2020. This rollercoaster of allowances and restrictions specifically pertaining to theaters have deeply affected Karniel’s teaching work. During the discussion session after his class, Karniel described the effort to bring a dance to performance that he had worked on staging with students for nearly a year. First they were going to perform in a theater with an in-person audience; then without the audience and without the dancers being able to touch or be close to each other; then in a studio with an in-person audience; then in a studio without an audience. Finally, they were allowed to perform the work without any audience members in the studio space, so they filmed it. Karniel mentioned the extra effort it took to rechoreograph the movement patterns to comply with the no-touch, no-partnering restrictions, then to transform a dance made for a theatrical stage to a studio space, and then again still for the camera. Karniel’s experiences are common across Israeli theatrical dance companies during the pandemic thus far. Dance writer Deborah Friedes Galili discussed what it felt like to experience a studio performance of Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv during the narrow window in which Israeli restrictions briefly lifted so that audiences could attend dance performances: the excitement of being kinesthetically together again, and the anxiety about virus transmission. As we look toward what this landscape may turn out to be, the potential for remaining connected through practices like Feldenkrais and Karniel’s teaching offer possibilities for navigating this as-yet uncertain future.