COVID-19 Dance Worker Narratives Project

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts seeks participation in a peer-to-peer interview project across dance communities in NYC and nationally. We are requesting your submissions  through December 31, 2021.

Screenshots of various participants in the Covid-19 Dance Worker Narrative Project
Participant Screenshots, COVID-19 Dance Worker Narratives Project 2020-2021

The purpose of the project is to document the unique experience of dance artists and workers during and after their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. This project also intends to give opportunities for members of the dance community to connect with one another while there are social limitations on physical gatherings. These interviews will be made publicly accessible on the Library’s online streaming platform: Digital Collections.

We seek submissions of peer-to-peer, unedited, remote video interviews about personal experiences during this time. You are welcome to participate as an interviewer and a narrator, as well as submit multiple interviews that you conducted, or even ‘interview’ yourself. Interviews are welcome to go in a variety of directions depending on interest and circumstances.

The following questions are available as a guide or jumping off points:

  • Can you briefly describe your dance practice and career path?

  • Describe the moment(s) when Covid-19 first came into your awareness

  • What were the first few months of the pandemic like for you?

  • How did that change over the course of the year?

  • What has your relationship to dance and/or others in the dance community been like during this time?

  • How did the Black Lives Matter protests influence you as a dance artist or dance worker?

  • Could you describe the experience or effect of this past year on your body?

  • Is there anything else you would like to put on the record that we haven’t touched upon today?


Step-by-Step Instructions for Interviewers

1. Inviting someone to participate.  Discuss this project with a friend or colleague in the field and ask if they are interested in being interviewed. This person will be the “Narrator” of your interview. 

2. Scheduling a call.  Schedule a Zoom meeting or other video platform call. Zoom is free to use and has no time limit, as long as you have only two users.

  • Both you and your narrator should try to organize a time when you are the only person using the internet in the household
  • Laptops, tablets or smartphones are preferable devices to desktop computers as they provide higher recording quality
  • Locate headphones with built-in microphones to use on the call

3. Naming the meeting.  When you schedule the Zoom call, be sure to name the meeting with something you will remember, this will be the name of the folder in which your files will eventually be found.

4. Setting up the technology.  At the start of the call, say hello and deal with any technical difficulties before you begin recording. This includes sound quality and the visual framing:

  • Be sure both individuals wear headphones with built-in microphones
  • Create a quiet space by closing windows, turning off appliances, and keeping pets out of the room
  • Make sure you and your narrator are not backlit
  • If using a laptop or tablet, check that both of your phones are on silent or airplane mode
  • Be sure that both of your devices are charged or plugged in
  • Set Zoom to “Gallery View” so that you are both equally represented

5. Framing the project.  Now that the technology is squared away, reassure and remind your narrator about the intentions of the project by saying,

  • “I want to remind you that this is a video recording that will become part of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. Anything you have to share about your personal experience is of interest to the archival record. It is not a live broadcast, so we can pause or stop or think at any time. This will be an unedited recording eventually included on the NYPL Digital Collections website, so if there are things you would not like patrons of the library or online listeners to know, it’s best not to say them. Do you have any questions before we get started? Thank you again for doing this with me, I’m now going to press record and start the interview with a short introduction.”

6. Recording your interview.  Press the recording button in Zoom. After pressing record, begin the interview with the following introduction:

  • “This is YOUR NAME, I’m here with NARRATOR NAME to conduct an interview as part of the COVID-19 Dance Worker Narratives Project for the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Today is DATE, and I am in LOCATION, and NARRATOR NAME is in LOCATION. I know NARRATOR NAME because ________.  NARRATOR NAME would you introduce yourself?”

7. During the interview.  Continue with the interview for about 40-60 minutes, using the above questions as a topical guide (or include your own variations of these questions). 

  • Silence and pausing to think are organic parts of the interview process; give your narrator an extra second for responses and try not to interrupt them. 
  • Follow up questions might naturally arise; follow your own curiosity and what you envision future listeners might be interested to hear. 
  • Don’t worry about any notifications that pop up on your computer, they will not appear on the recording.

8. Wrapping up.  When you are ready to end, wrap up the interview by thanking your narrator and press “end recording.” Once you have finished recording, you can chat with your narrator and then end the Zoom call.

9. Saving the video and audio files.  Once the Zoom call has ended, it automatically creates a folder containing both video and audio versions of the call. The title of the folder will be the name of the Zoom call itself (which you created when you set up the meeting). You can find this folder in the Recordings tab when logged into your Zoom account. 

10. Submitting the files.  Submit both files and other information using this form through December 31, 2021. In addition, please email your narrator a copy of the interview so they have it for their personal use and records.

11. Signing an agreement with NYPL.  You and your narrator will receive an email in a few days with an electronic copyright agreement form. Submit this form subsequently on behalf of both parties, sent to you through Adobe Sign. You and your narrator will retain rights to use the interview for your personal, educational, archival, and promotional reasons.

Still have any questions or concerns? Email, of the Dance Oral History Project.