Hopkins Center introduces Hop@Home

by Maud McCole | 4/16/20 2:10am

The Hopkins Center for the Arts has canceled or postponed all live events through May 31 in response to the global spread of COVID-19. Rather than shuttering its doors completely, however, the Hop has introduced “Hop@Home” — a new project aimed at creating “a virtual stage that brings our adventurous artistry and creative community to your living room,” according to a statement from Hop director Mary Lou Aleskie.

Aleskie said that through a variety of virtual events, she and the Hop staff are committed to continuing to provide opportunities for the greater Dartmouth community to engage with the arts, even while away from campus.

According to Aleskie, the Hop plans to provide the full scope of programming that it typically offers in a live setting. It will offer virtual HopStops — interactive performances for children and families — through the new HopStop@Home program.  Additionally, it will continue to host Thursday Night Live — a social event that normally takes place at the Top of the Hop — by streaming a live DJ over Zoom.

Another one of Hop@Home’s major components is the Sourdough Dance-Off, a program aimed at engaging dancers in the Dartmouth community and beyond. Every Monday, the Hop posts a dance “starter” — a one-minute piece of dance choreography — to its Facebook and Instagram pages. Viewers are invited to submit their own one-minute dance in reaction to the initial “starter” choreography. Three highlights will be chosen from those submissions every Friday, and viewers will vote for a favorite via social media. The clip with the most votes becomes the starter for the following week’s competition, and the cycle repeats.

Lexi Warden ’21, a member of the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble, said that she sees the competition as a productive way to stay connected to the dance community and to Dartmouth while practicing social distancing.

“It is something that’s movement, that’s active and then adding that creative element as well,” Warden said. “It’s a way for us to create and be inspired by each other, even though we can’t be with each other.”

Anyone is invited to participate in the competition, regardless of dance background. Warden added that she hopes the competition will reach people who might not have previously engaged with dance at Dartmouth.

“Whoever wants to participate should participate. It’s really about building a community,” Warden said. “Hopefully we’ll reach some people who maybe we wouldn’t normally reach.”

Another new remote program is the #SmallScreenFun film project. Each week, Hop Film director Sydney Stowe and film programming and operations manager Johanna Evans ’10 suggest a film for people to watch over the weekend. The following Tuesday evening, viewers can tune in to a live chat with Stowe, Evans and a range of special guests, including filmmakers and film scholars.

On April 7, the first installment of #SmallScreenFun featured a live Q&A with Jeremy Teicher ’10, director of the film “Olympic Dreams.” Evans noted that because Teicher lives on the West Coast, the conversation would have been impossible in an in-person format. She said that she sees the current situation as an exciting opportunity to test online content. 

“We’re testing out this virtual Q&A format, not just because it’s something that works really well right now, but because it’s something we’ve always kind of wanted to try anyway,” Evans said. 

Stowe said that Q&As are an essential component of the Hop’s film program and that she’s committed to replicating the experience that viewers usually have in person. She and Evans both said that they are eager to continue to provide original programming to viewers through the #SmallScreenFun program. 

“I don’t think people are starved for content,” Stowe said. “They want something that they have a reason to watch, and the reason that we can create is that sense of community.”

Evans emphasized the importance of artistic creativity as an outlet during the pandemic.

“I hope everyone is finding room to be creative and make new things,” Evans said. “I think it’s the only way we’re all gonna get through this.” 

Aleskie said that one of the other major goals of Hop@Home is to provide support for the larger art community, which has faced a loss of revenue during the COVID-19 outbreak. Where possible, the Hop is postponing rather than canceling live performances scheduled for the spring, as a way to continue to support artists. As of now, the Hop has not made any changes to scheduled programming for the summer.

#HopTakes is another new program aimed at engaging with the larger art world: Each week, the Hop staff gathers artistic events and news from across the internet and releases a curated list on the Hop website.

“We can shout out to colleagues, support our local community of artist and arts organizations and just keep our unit connected to the world of the arts,” Aleskie said. 

Ultimately, the Hop staff hopes to provide a positive community during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I hope that people find a place of familiarity and comfort, a place to come together,” Aleskie said. “I hope that they find a place that gives them a certain amount of distance from the challenges around them — a place to escape, a place to explore and have a little fun.”

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