Almost every morning these days, the first question I get from my 4-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, is, “Do we have the dance today?” She’s asking about Jennifer Cameron’s live dance class.
A professional musical theater performer, Cameron wanted to provide a creative way for people to communicate and keep moving in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This came out of thinking about my mom, who is home by herself in New Orleans right now,” says Cameron, 38, who lives in the Lutherville-Timonium area. “I was really thinking of ways to connect with her and keep her active. Then, I started thinking about everyone else at home who may be looking for resources to move, and the idea for this dance class came to me.”
Cameron put out a call to her network via Facebook, quickly getting a huge response. Now, she offers the live 30-minute dance class through Facebook every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3 p.m.
“This time can be lonely and isolating, and now I’m getting messages from friends I haven’t spoken to in 15 years, [and] friends of friends who want to join in on the dancing, and my mom’s friends,” says Cameron, who grew up in New Orleans. “There has been a socialization aspect to this I wasn’t expecting.”
Cameron plans to offer the class until the quarantine is lifted so friends from near and far can gather.
“It’s really fun for me and my son, Crosby, to connect and interact with Jenn and her boys,” says Shelley Pick, who takes the class from her home in Marblehead, Mass. “Jenn’s been my best friend since we were 5 years old, but we don’t get to see each other much. This has been a great way to be social when there isn’t much of a chance to do that anymore.”
Pick says another benefit of the class is spending quality one-on-one time with her son. “I have a newborn at home, so this it’s been fun to do something with just Crosby every day,” she says. “It’s great to have a little scheduled escape and entertainment for us during this weird time.”
For Cameron, dancing is a source of joy and has always played major role in her life. She danced for the George Washington University dance team and moved to New York after graduation to pursue her Broadway dreams. She has danced with Broadway choreographers and performed in multiple professional regional shows all over the country, including “Cats,” “Damn Yankees,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “A Chorus Line.”
“Dance has always been my everything,” Cameron says. “It’s been my career, my exercise and my passion.”
Since moving to the Baltimore area in 2011, Cameron has had two sons, now ages 6 and 3, with her husband, Dr. Brad Pfeffer, an interventional cardiologist at LifeBridge Health. After becoming a mother, Cameron’s priorities shifted but her love for dance never waned.
Now, with this live dance class, she can share her love of movement with her boys.
“Each dance I choreograph for these live classes ends with a partner section,” says Cameron, who is the creative arts director of the Habima Arts Camp at the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center, where she also teaches adult tap classes. “There has been this natural evolution of my sons coming to dance with me for that part. I’ve never been able to get my boys to dance with me, so that’s been a highlight.”
Putting together a dance comes naturally to Cameron. She typically picks a song the night before and the morning of the dance, when her sons are involved in an art project (per their new quarantine schedule), and choreographs the dance.
What is challenging, though, is creating steps that are appropriate for the wide age range participating.
“There are kids as young as 3 and adults as old as 78 commenting that they are dancing,” says Cameron. “Preparing for this is different from any other class I’ve taught because I have to make sure it’s age appropriate for everyone. I want my music choices to resonate with all age groups, and the steps need to be easy enough for someone who isn’t a dancer but also challenging enough for a professional, because I have friends from my performing days that are participating as well. I’m keeping the steps basic but offer modifications so you can make it easier or harder.”
As the world continues to live in quarantine, the dance class is becoming not only a means of getting the public moving but a way for Cameron to stay healthy and clear-minded.
“This has been the best distraction I could ask for,” she says. “I’m no longer looking on my Facebook newsfeed for COVID-19 statistics or news stories. Instead, I’m looking to see who’s participating in the classes. I love connecting with both old and new friends, and seeing videos of everyone’s kids dancing. This virtual community gives me this sense of community when we don’t have that right now.”
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