Wednesday, 22 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Evonnee Bentley-Holder



These recent times have been some of the hardest challenges we've faced and as a community, it hit us pretty hard. However during these difficult times, here at Pocket Size Theatre, we wanted to spread a little positivity and share some peoples experiences because we are all in this together. Each day we'll be speaking to our friends in the industry to share their experiences with you all so take a read and see how people are getting through these hard times. 

Let's stick together, share the love and get through this as a community!

Evonnee Bentley-Holder was most recently seen in Sleeping Beauty at the York Theatre Royal. Her other credits include Ensemble in Doctor Dolittle (UK Tour); Mimi and Dance Captain in Guys and Dolls (Royal Exchange); Dancer in Reflection Route (Union Dance) and Dancer in Bridgerton (Netflix). 

On Monday 16th March 2020, The Society of London Theatre announced the closure of all Theatres in London. This followed suit with regional venues. Where were you when you found out and what was your initial reaction? 

I was in between performing work therefore I would have been either teaching, auditioning or working part-time. And although the news was sad, I expected it to happen and was slightly surprised that it didn't happen before. When you put things into perspective, everyone's health comes first in a major event like this.

Can you tell us anything productive you’ve been doing?

I've definitely tried to be productive and some days I'm on it and other days I'm really not! I do like to be busy so I try to fill my time with loads of little projects to jump into. I started lockdown by tentatively trying to make a showreel and it actually turned out to be pretty good so I have kind of discovered a new talent for editing and have put together showreels for a friend. I'm in the process of studying to be a Level 3 Personal Trainer so I'm continuing to study this and I've done a little bit of teaching for an online charity event called Dance Against Racism Day, which was awesome! I feel like I've been bitten by the choreographing and teaching bug again so I'm setting up some more workshops for children and adults, as I can't wait to do more! Also I've done a bit more cooking, more specifically cake baking! I also gave myself the goal of completing a 10k in lockdown- I only achieved 9.8k but I'm to still take that as a win!

There’s so much important information and messages being spread on social media but sometimes it can be quite mentally draining and consume a lot of your time, how have you been looking after your mental state whilst using these platforms?

It's difficult because the news has been very overwhelming and I would be lying if I say I haven't cried about some of the posts and articles I've seen and read, particularly those in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement. I think there is a balance: you need to know the reality of what is happening in the world whilst also maintaining your joy or inner peace. 

How have I dealt with it? I had to limit my time on socials and article reading and most importantly I spoke to friends and had open conversations about BLM, the virus, the state of the NHS. It's important that you can share your thoughts and fears because it eases your mind and helps with self-reflection (what can I do big or small to make things better?). I've found it really uplifting to talk to friends and family and super educational. It's also good to try and educate yourself by researching and reading- I always feel less overwhelmed when I get a better understanding of something and also checking myself and my ideas. There are loads of resources available we all just need to look outside ourselves and have more empathy full stop. 

With the Arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the Arts industries? 

Don't forget to keep supporting your local dance schools, programmes and teachers by continuing to do their online classes if you can- as they are an important piece of the Arts industry puzzle! And if you can share the information and coverage on struggling theatres and their employees that is a great way to support and get the word out- as there are so many unsung heroes in production, stage management, technicians. that will be affected too.

Have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to our viewers? 

Lockdown has definitely allowed me to slow down and really appreciate all the wonderful work around us! I've been watching some amazing TV: Normal People, I May Destroy You and Insecure are all amazing shows. Oh and the replaying of live performances at Glastonbury and Beyonce's 'I Am Tour' have made me miss live music! I've done a few live stream dance classes and listened into Q & A sessions and seminars- one on 'Emotional Resilience' was particularly helpful. I've been reading and swapping books between family members and listening to some really great podcasts such as 'The Receipts Podcast" and 'In the Moment with Alex Manzi', that have made me laugh-like deep belly laugh, but also have made me think! And I cannot forget Hamilton!

In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family? 

I've had a lot of zoom chats and video calls- which I now definitely prefer over messaging. I really miss seeing people's faces and hearing their voices so I send a lot more voice notes now too. My older sister has sent some lovely little gifts in the post which have been super cute and so I've tried to adopt this when it comes to friend's birthdays or if they need an emotional lift.

And finally, looking to the future, what are you most looking forward to when all of this is over?

I look forward to seeing family and friends more often and in-person when everything is a little safer. I cannot wait to perform again and work as a team or company and have that morale- or even just dance with enough space to move full out!

We'd like to thank Evonnee and all other performers who have given up their time to contribute to this feature.

For more information please visit GOV.UK and NHS.co.uk

Other useful links for anyone needing further help:

Acting For Others - Charity that provides financial & emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need.
Help Musicians - An independent Charity that helps all forms of Musicians through times of need.
Industry Minds - Mental Health Support for the creative arts.
Theatre Helpline - a free, independent and confidential phone and email service that provides support to people working in the theatre industry.
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