Hopefully we will look back at this time and remember how hard we worked to keep each other safe and to keep our businesses running the best we could. It seems doing both is difficult right now. I know many dance teachers as well as most people in the arts are struggling to make ends meet and to keep their passion alive.
My family is doing its best to keep life as normal as possible. Working from home and making sure my kids are doing their school work has its frustrating moments but we are hanging in there! We must remember that this is a time like no other and to give ourselves a break if things are not working as planned. Perfection is not and should not be an option. We need to give ourselves and our family a break and lots of love! Between jobs my kids are playing outside and playing video games. They love Minecraft and my daughter made a skin of me in my ballet clothes which was cute!
In Minnesota everything started to shut down mid March. As I saw my community centers and the schools where I teach close I took a deep breath and opened a bottle of wine! This was going to be the best spring my business has ever had. I had almost 50 classes lined up all over the Twin Cities and in a matter of days that was all wiped out.
Since I offer classes with many communities luckily they were all interested in offering online opportunities. Like many dance teachers I quickly learned the ways of Zoom and Google Meet and set up classes in my home. It was also fortunate that I have a studio in my basement. However if that is not an option for you, you will have no problem teaching in whatever space you may have.
For those of you who are looking for ways to teach online, it is really not that difficult. It is however, different. You will need some equipment but hopefully since many of us are already online you will have what you need. First, you will need some space but not much. Just enough for you to move side to side a bit. Second, you will need a device that can make videos such as a webcam which most computers have. Third you will need adequate lighting. If you have a space with windows the outside light should be enough. You may have to move some furniture or you computer around to find the best space for your situation.
The aspect that I have found with the actual teaching of my classes is the dynamics between teacher and student is much different. Teaching online is more like making a video and posting it. I feel like I am talking more to myself than to my students. I love to interact with my students and let them add to my classes. With this set up that is more of a challenge.
You will find that mute is your friend! Have the kids on mute whenever you are talking. Everyone is in their own house and not only is it possible that the students will talk when they are not supposed to but their family may as well. Expect all kinds of things when you are teaching. My first week teaching online I didn’t know what to expect so I didn’t use mute very much. Someone had a package delivered the other day and the dog was barking and it was crazy! I really was hoping I could leave everyone’s mic on but it is just not possible. I do take a break between classes to ask the students questions about activities but for the most part everyone is on mute. I ask them to wave or give me a thumbs up to check in from time to time.
Because there are some exercises and activities that are difficult to do in a living room I am not having my students do anything across the floor or other traveling movements. Since there are some things I have cut out I have also shortened some of my classes. I keep all my dance classes to 30 minutes. Being a recreational dance teacher I find that I don’t want to go longer than that. You could try adding more games or interaction to a preschool class or if you are a studio your classes might need more warm ups, conditioning and technique. For rec classes with students that are in it just for fun I don’t want to push it. Always leave them wanting more!
In my 30 minute preschool ballet class I will first do a center warm up which includes some jumping, isolations and review of simple ballet steps. Then we will sit on the floor and stretch with a stuffed animal. I will then teach and dance two full dances with the class and end with a creative movement game. It seems perfect for holding their attention and keeping them engaged. Make sure you pick songs and activities that are super interesting. If your songs and activities have a fun story to go along with them that will make class that much more fun!
So approach your class like it is a presentation and you will be fine! Thinking of class like a presentation or a posted video you will have to dance much more full out and with a lot of energy! Make sure you bring your water bottle!
I hope you all are doing well at this time! Remember to breathe, have a little wine or chocolate if that is your thing and look toward a future where we are all teaching in the same room as our amazing students once again! I know I can’t wait to hug them all! I am sending happy thoughts for all your dance studios. We will all find a way to keep our love of the arts going for ourselves and for our students! This may be a tough road but we will get through!