Mickela Mallozzi was about to begin filming her next season of her Emmy® Award-winning dance travel series, Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi, when the cancellation calls began. In a matter of days, an entire year’s worth of plans evaporated, leaving her — like so many others— frozen by the unpredictability that spread alongside the coronavirus.
But despite the discouraging disruption, Mickela found a way to rejuvenate her spirit — and her determination — with a pivot. After sharing her show with dance teachers looking for a new curriculum for students stranded at home, she reconnected with her love of connecting with her community, finding a surge of motivation that helps her find creative ways to keep moving forward.
1. Where was your business at before the pandemic broke? What had you recently achieved? How were you planning to evolve for the rest of the year?
Before the pandemic broke, I had just been featured in O Magazine, I had just secured over half of my entire production and distribution budget for the next season of my travel series on PBS, Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi. I was at the start of a brand-new production cycle of my TV series, with a long list of paid speaking engagements across the country and abroad, including Europe.
2. Walk us through the changes to your business as the pandemic began to spread. For example, what were the first signs of trouble you saw? Did you have to cancel any projects?
The first changes that came slowly were the cancellations in my speaking engagements. For good reason and the health and safety of so many people, travel conferences began to cancel, and then all of my immediate travel for the next month was postponed indefinitely. Then the funders of our television series pulled out. I also had an upcoming river cruise departure for which I curated dance experiences; needless to say, that, too, was cancelled. This all happened in a matter of about two weeks’ time.
3. Did the spread of the pandemic reveal an opportunity for you to ‘pivot’ your business?
The day I found out about the cancelled financial support for the series, I got a call from New York City’s Department of Education asking me if they could use my videos to help with their dance curriculum for their teachers and the thousands of students now learning from home. As an independent producer through PBS, I made sure my series is available for free, including on on the website and app, to ensure that our programming can be used for educational purposes. I was elated to know that my previous seasons would be helping teachers and families and kids during this difficult and unprecedented time.
But that day really helped me put everything into perspective - the spread of the pandemic forced me to take a pause because every other monetary aspect of my company was halted. Yet at the same time, I was seeing the real value of my show through helping so many people. And it forced me to ask myself, “Why do I travel?” I realized my series brings joy and hope and connection to people, so my mission during the pandemic is to continue to do so, but also get creative with that mission.
4. Now that we’re operating at the new normal of social distancing and being in lock down, what does your business look like?
My cultural series takes a deep dive through music and dance with locals. My fans and viewers turn to me and my show for uplifting content that makes them feel connected with the rest of the world, pandemic or not. So, I knew I had to keep that mission going, no matter what.
Now I host weekly live interviews on my social channels at @travelbarefeet where I take fans around the world with me into the living rooms of my dancer and musician friends who share with us the dances and rhythms that they love so much. So far, I’ve already taken my fans to Killarney, Ireland to learn the brush dance and to learn we the Haya dance of Tanzania from a true, African princess.
5. Now, what are your plans for the next week? The next month? The next year? Has any of these events affected your business for the long-term?
I’m trying to take things one day at a time, being as active and productive as possible. I’m hosting weekly dance sessions virtually and social media for my fans; and I’m trying to volunteer as much of my time to help other independent producers of public television. I even officially started the Independent Producers Association where we host FREE weekly webinars for independent producers to find community, workshops, and information regarding the daunting process of producing, fundraising, and distributing a series on public media. Otherwise, it is a waiting game for me until the production and travel industries open up again.