Since March of 2020 Utpalasia has been supporting our students and continuing both classes and workshops online. There have been challenges, to be sure, but we have engineered new found energy into our sessions to keep our dancers motivated and pursuing their passion in exciting ways.
A large part of our ability to do that was focused on redefining how, where, and under what conditions dance would be taught. It would not be to just maintain their status quo level, but to move forward. We were able to do this in a number of ways.
Here are some of our top takeaways in navigating that challenge:
- Use a secure platform that ensures safety for children and young adults – we like Google Meet, it’s reliable and easy
- Encourage students to be ready for their online class, wearing clothing suitable for their specific styles or activities
- Work on increasing technique and expertise in their repertoire while giving them incentives to expand their skills from week to week
- Set up a semester of 8 to 10 or 12 weeks to ensure continuity; use monthly workshops to highlight special topics, or as a ‘drop in’ class
- Scope out dynamic pieces of music to fuel their enthusiasm and keep them wanting to learn more
- Consider blending established styles (we used Kathak and Bollywood) with fusion elements in unexpected choreographies – this refreshes traditional works and also opens up new audiences and student interest
- Provide a professional goal – we offer a Certification of International Dance Studies in conjunction with CID – UNESCO, the International Dance Council
- Use the world’s original (and free) dance space: the beautiful outdoors as your classroom
- Build community by meeting up outside to film, critique, present, and share videos of students’ accomplishments, strictly maintaining both distance and masking for safety reasons
- Showcase achievements by posting performance clips on your social media platforms or YouTube channel
At a recent dance professional’s global conference it was apparent that many instructors feel as if they are teaching dance as just a set of mechanical movements, rather than an art in which musicality, life experience, and emotional range should also be displayed. However, it is difficult to ask a twelve year old to understand these concepts when all they have known for over a year is a computer screen, endless online classes, and the occasional walk around their yard.
This is where the experience and passion of an instructor comes into play. To ignite a student’s love of the dance arts it is essential to offer content variety, new ways of viewing movement and space, and an updated methodology of gesture and acting tailored to their needs. It is up to us as educators to bring the inspiration, optimism, and diligence that shape all artists, amateur or professional.
People have always expressed joy and happiness through movement. Dance is the vaccine for the creative soul during this Age of COVID. So put on a smile and come dancing!