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Halifax dancing in the face of adversity to combat COVID-19 blues




HALIFAX — The temperature was hovering around freezing Thursday when Laurianne Falkwin bundled up her two children and took them outside to dance.

Their 10 a.m. date to boogie in isolation on their porch while hundreds of other Halifax residents did the same was looming. Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Nowhere with You was cued up on the portable speaker. 

“We dance on our own porch and then afterwards we sort of come to the sidewalk and talk to each other across the street,” said Falkwin, who lives on Armcrescent West Avenue.

On a good morning, since the COVID-19 pandemic forced people indoors, she’s spotted folks from five other neighbouring households getting their groove on while her children, Julia, who turns four next Wednesday, and Benjamin, six, strut their stuff. 

“They’re missing being able to go up to our neighbours and hug them and chat with them. So this kind of gets them outside and seeing the neighbours that they’re missing.”

The event gives Falkwin a reason to inject some structure into her kids’ lives by making them get dressed. “Secretly, we often have jammies under our winter gear.”

It doesn’t hurt that the dancing also helps “burn off some of this pent-up energy that they have,” Falkwin said.

Laurianne Falkwin, her son Ben, 6, and daughter Julia, 4, take to the sidewalk in front of their house on Armcrescent West in Halifax on Thursday morning, March 26, 2020.  - Eric Wynne
Laurianne Falkwin, her son Ben, 6, and daughter Julia, 4, take to the sidewalk in front of their house on Armcrescent West in Halifax on Thursday morning, March 26, 2020. - Eric Wynne

The 40-year-old school counsellor and landlord normally only dances in her kitchen with family. At first, she worried about the prospect of dancing alone. 

“Then I looked across the street and saw my neighbour – she was cutting up a rug – I thought, ‘Let loose. Let’s do this.’”

Dubbed the countrywide, spirit-boosting patio dance, the event has taken off on social media. People can request songs and are also posting videos of themselves dancing to tunes including, of course, Gloria Gaynor’s disco anthem I Will Survive, Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, Classified’s Inner Ninja, and The Police, with Don’t Stand So Close to Me. 
“I’m hoping for it to grow,” Falkwin said. “It’s spreading. Every day it gets a little bit bigger.”

Her street dance partners range in age from toddlers to people in their 60s. The best dancer Falkwin can spy from her porch is Wendy Walsh, across the way.

“She’s a quiet person, but when you turn the music on, her extroverted personality comes out.”

Walsh laughs when she learns her neighbour appreciates her dance moves. She hits the porch to dance with her daughter Poppy, 10, who normally trains for ballet but has been practising swing dancing of late. 

“It’s like a burst of activity and energy and free-form — you can just do whatever you want. There are no rules. And I think being outside makes it even more like that because you’re not trying to fit into a particular space,” Walsh said. “Right now these times are really strained. So I think being able to have a few minutes of joy is good. … You just have a moment to be fun and free and feel like, with all the crazy stuff that’s going on, at least you can still enjoy.” 

Wendy Walsh and her daughter Poppy, 10, dance on the front of their house on Armcrescent West Thursday morning. - Eric Wynne
Wendy Walsh and her daughter Poppy, 10, dance on the front of their house on Armcrescent West Thursday morning. - Eric Wynne

Event organizer Caley Dimmock kicked off the dance party last week from the balcony of her north-end Halifax condo. She’s hoping the patio-dancing phenomenon — where people share videos daily of themselves dancing to the same song -- will gain traction across the country.

“We had 2,500 people responding to the Facebook event,” said Dimmock, a 30-year-old marketing consultant. 

“I think there’s definitely hundreds of people doing it every day.”

She even takes song requests via social media. “It has to be on theme with surviving.”

Tunes can’t include excessive cursing “because we have a lot of kids participating,” Dimmock said. “And it has to be widely known.”

She has a theory that dancing in the face of adversity can change our moods for the better. 

“Any time we’re feeling bummed out or anxious or any of those sort of emotions, our instinct is not to dance,” Dimmock said. “Our instinct is to hide or to just not do things that are joyful. But if we force ourselves to do things that are joyful in moments that may not be, then it can re-wire our mood. It can actually throw us into a state of joy and it just gets our day off to a better start. It’s a bit of almost like bio-hacking, in a way, our own bodies.”

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