Cody Szarko, who hails from Toronto, Canada, and his husband John Litzler, a Loveland native, chased their dream from Chicago to Los Angeles, finally landing in Cincinnati’s most artist-friendly neighborhood: Northside. Their dream of opening a flexible movement space was finally taking shape as the Movement Emporium. And then, a global pandemic hit.
Auditions for the Junior and Senior company, which will consist of Cincinnati-based dancers ages 8-18, were scheduled for May; due to the COVID-19 restrictions, they have been rescheduled to August 1. Classes, which do not require an audition and cater to various types of dance and skill levels, were also set to start at the end of May but are now slated to begin July 6. So, Codyand John were left with an empty studio and a big question mark: What now?
As artists are accustomed to doing, they improvised.
Both John and Cody have Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees and have previously worked in Chicago-based companies dancing contemporary jazz. However, they envisioned their studio as a more diverse space, so they completed their 200-hour Yoga Teacher Certifications and began offering virtual yoga classes, which have been well-attended. These classes, John says, have been good for both the physical and mental health of attendees during this period of quarantine and social distancing; they have shown the power of movement in ways perhaps previously unrecognized by many. John and Cody hope to continue these classes in-person in the fall or spring, after adjusting to teaching dance in a world that will live with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.
In addition to virtual yoga classes, John and Cody have also offered virtual dance lessons for prospective company dancers and students heading toward a professional dance career. John, looking for the light in a dark situation, says they have greatly valued the more focused, technical training accomplished during these classes. This one-on-one time has allowed them to meet the dancers where their needs are and have useful, productive sessions, which is not always the case in a room full of performers with varying strengths. John says, even when the studio opens for in-person classes, this type of specialized training will continue due to the small nature of the company. You don’t need to be a professional dancer to attend classes at Movement Emporium, though. Starting July 6, they’ll offer drop-in classes for all levels and types of dance that do not require an audition.
John and Cody’s vision for a flexible, personalized movement space was disrupted by an unforeseen global crisis. However, in a true reflection of their vision, they adapted and overcame; their dream has now manifested and will continue to serve others however and wherever they need.