A digital dance-off spreads from Argentina to the world

BUENOS AIRES - With theaters closed around the world, three South American dancers have created a digital dance-off for aspiring twirlers, with Instagram the new stage where competitors from Argentina and Brazil to Israel and Italy post clips of their moves.

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The competition, open to all, has attracted hundreds of applicants - some professionals, others youngsters dancing from lockdown in their homes.

A panel of renowned expert judges assess each dance, and viewers can also vote with "likes."

"We were struck by the desire of participants to be seen, to express themselves and their dance, what
is happening to them at the moment," said Argentine Facundo Luqui, who organized the "@stayhomedancecompetition" event with two other dancers.

"What we thought when we started this project was that anyone can participate," added Luqui, 23,
who is a member of the ballet company at Buenos Aires' iconic Teatro Colón.

The competition, which wraps up on Sunday, challenged dancers to raise awareness about the pandemic, reference the coronavirus and honor an artist. In one video, a mother wearing a doctor's
coat and a mask guards her daughter while she dances.

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Giovana Soria, 18, a Paraguayan who has studied Latin rhythms for two years, said her dance was to
encourage people to take steps to prevent infections spreading.

"I started to watch the news and saw that many people respected the quarantine, but when going out
they did not take measures like putting on a mask, they touched everything and didn't wash their
hands," said Soria.

Paz Schattenhofer, an 11-year-old who studies classical dance and who took part from Buenos Aires,
said her performance was a homage to Russian photographer Yulia Artemyeva, who made a series of
works comparing ballerinas to flowers.

"I would love to win it but in reality it's to have fun. It is great when people "like" you and that people
see me, it is like a stage," she said.

Performance art globally has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, closing theaters and leaving
dance troupes unable to perform or rehearse at close quarters.

"I think dance at the moment is undergoing a great crisis," said Manuela Lavalle, 24, another of the organizers, who dances in a company in the United States but is passing the quarantine in her native Buenos Aires.

"It's complicated because many companies do not have the money they need to get by. I believe the
world of dance is going to change a lot and we still do not know how, but it is a matter of waiting and
continuing to create in the meantime."