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COVID Photography During Pandemic

Photographers and models typically go from one photo shoot to another. COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are making their jobs challenging, but just like thousands of people around the world, they are finding a way to work. Iacopo Luzi reports in this piece adapted by Cristina Smit.

My Synagogue is Closed

In Israel, all synagogues have been closed for more than a month because of the coronavirus. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA on her synagogue in Jerusalem.

Toilet Paper Cakes Keep European Bakery Rolling in Dough

The sudden scarcity of one of life’s most humble but necessary household supplies — toilet paper — has breathed life into a Finnish bakery that was facing closure due to the COVID-19 threat. The Helsinki shop is creating cakes made in the shape of toilet paper rolls, which were an instant hit, putting smiles on customers’ faces and keeping the staff employed. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

Baking Therapy Helps Ease Pandemic Anxiety

Many who shelter at home during the coronavirus pandemic feel isolated and distressed, especially those with mental health issues. According to a spokesman for the Disaster Distress Helpline, the federally funded hotline has seen 891% more calls this spring than last. Psychologists recommend a variety of coping mechanisms, such as exercising, drawing or gardening, for those who feel cooped up, fearful about the future and about the well-being of loved ones. VOA's Penelope Poulou follows one such person, who finds solace in baking. 

Online Gamers Hone Skills in Pandemic

Esports, organized video gaming, is finding a new role in the COVID-19 pandemic, as people locked down at home try to keep up their competitive skills.  Mike O’Sullivan reports that students at two California colleges meet online weekly in virtual competitions, staying in training while staying at home.

Global Citizens Re-Create Master Works of Art Using Cabbage, Lentils, Socks

Amateur artists around the world are taking advantage of self-isolation from COVID-19 by recreating famous works of art and sharing them on social media for all to enjoy. Most are using common household items like socks, sausages and beans to make clever renditions of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," Leonardo Da Vinci’s "Mona Lisa," and many others. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

Internet Fosters Sense of Normalcy in Extraordinary Times

For people around the world who are living under a stay at home mandate during the pandemic, the internet has created a sense of normalcy during extraordinary times.  The screens of mobile devices and computers have become a window to escape to places hundreds or thousands of miles away.  On the web, anyone anywhere in the world can take in the sights and sounds of cultural sites for free in New York City such as opera from the Metropolitan Opera,  virtual 360 tours inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a trip to the New York Botanical Garden.Other organizations and businesses in different cities are also offering online entertainment. Through social media, celebrities offered intimate chats and musical performances from inside their homes. American musician John Legend played the piano and sang for his followers on Instagram. Chris Martin, the lead singer of the British rock band Coldplay, also chatted and sang for his followers on Instagram.  Los Angeles-area resident Jason Smith enjoys a virtual dinner with friends. (Photo courtesy Jason Smith)Some people have found creative ways to make the internet more interactive.With online video conferencing, Jason Smith has been able to play online board games with friends, host virtual watch parties of a favorite TV show and even have virtual dinners. He places a TV monitor on his dining table and chats with his friends during the meal. He and his friends even made the same dish during one virtual dinner. “It's nice to be social. And somehow seeing people's faces while you do this normal thing, even in a really not normal way, just seeing faces kind of makes it feel a little more normal and a little, a little easier to swallow, a little easier to digest,” Smith said. Smith also organized a virtual birthday party for his 8-year-old daughter, which became an inspiration for Nan Paik, whose daughter was also turning 8 and attended Smith’s party. Before the pandemic, Paik had planned to have a birthday where her daughter would spend it with friends and had even planned a family trip.  “To tell her that I couldn't do any of these things for her was really hard,” Paik said. After attending Smith’s virtual party, Paik decided to organize one for her daughter Emma as well. It turned into two parties. “She (Emma) made an agenda. She had a guest list. You know, one party was school friends and the other party was Girl Scout friends,” Paik said. “It was fun because they sang happy birthday, we did a scavenger hunt and we did a dance ...

New York's 'Corona Community Chorus' Aims to Unite Voices Now in Isolation

You're about to meet the virtual Corona Community Chorus — a group based in New York City. Each Sunday, the chorus members gather online to unite voices forced into isolation in the global effort to curb the coronavirus outbreak. VOA correspondent Mariama Diallo reports on its founder — an author and Harvard Divinity School graduate.

The Juliet of American Ballet Talks About the Profession

American ballet dancer Julie Kent was a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre from 1993 to 2015. Her farewell role was as Juliet, and in 2016 Kent was named the artistic director of The Washington Ballet. Karina Bafradzhian spoke with Kent about what it takes to be a ballerina — on and beyond the stage. 

Once Just for Business, Virtual Meetups Offer Social Lifeline During Pandemic  

Madison Keesler clears furniture and pets from the living room, while Benjamin Freemantle chomps on a banana topped with peanut butter. The two, who live together, are preparing to dance with dozens of other members of the San Francisco Ballet company currently sequestered throughout the city and around the world.  Since shelter-in-place rules went into effect three weeks ago, the company has met virtually - by video chat - for its daily class. Once used mostly for corporate meetings, video conferences have suddenly become the lifeline connecting isolated friends, co-workers, and family members. “A ballet company in particular, the people you work with and especially the dancers, they become like family,” says Keesler who is a soloist with the company. The abrupt cancellation of performances and loss of the daily ritual and camaraderie has been challenging. “So at least this offers waking up, turning on your computer and you still get to chat with them and see them a little bit,” she says. The virtual classes, which the company has been sharing publicly, have also been a comfort to thousands of fans, deprived of a performance season but now given access to an intimate view of dancers at work in kitchens, bedrooms and hallways. “People really want to know who the dancers are, and you just don’t get to know that on stage,” says Freemantle, a principal dancer with the company. “So even just this little glimpse into your living room or something where, I think you get to see a little bit of who that person is.”  “You also get to see who are the real ballet nerds, with the ballet barre bolted into the wall,” chuckles Freemantle, who is improvising with kitchen chairs for the moment.  Dancers Madison Keesler and Benjamin Freemantle take a virtual class with other members of the San Francisco Ballet company. (Courtesy Madison Keesler and Benjamin Freemantle)Amateurs are also joining in the class. Writes one fan, “Dream come true to see this and do a class at home with the SF Ballet! Be still my heart.” Support of old comrades Old friends are also connecting in new ways. Lexine Alpert is in touch every week with a group of women activists she’s known since the early 80’s when they joined forces in San Francisco as the “Nuclear Beauty Parlor.”   Now dispersed around the country, the group normally gathers every two years. But since physical distancing began, they’ve felt compelled to meet each week using Zoom.   Ten women appeared for a recent call, many with cocktails in hand. “It was wonderful,” says Alpert. “Each of us spontaneously spoke about what we’re going through with this virus. It was a really nice to hear everybody's take on how they're handling the situation.”  Alpert, a retired social worker, also meets virtually with her book club and refugee support organizations she is affiliated with. “It’s just a ...

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