Facebook

Stay-at-home ballet dancers adjust to online learning

Published on Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Enlarge photo

It helps to have a training partner.
 

It helps to have a training partner.

 



Enlarge photo

Any straight-back chair will do.
 

Any straight-back chair will do.

 



Enlarge photo

A staircase works for balancing.
 

A staircase works for balancing.

 



Enlarge photo

A mat helps cushion floor exercises.
 

A mat helps cushion floor exercises.

 



BY GERSON PETIT

Although correcting students’ form and posture via Zoom is far from ideal, dance instructors found themselves having to figure out how to teach dance online because of COVID-19.

When the pandemic forced the International Ballet, a Greer-based dance academy, to close its doors, the faculty members struggled to find the next step. After discussing options, they decided to provide live lessons that would allow the instructors to interact with their students.

Liz Blackwood — who teaches ballet 1, 2, and 3 — said she needed to have contact with her students to provide real-time feedback, as opposed to having her students watch recorded lessons.

Transitioning to online teaching proved challenging. “There was a very steep learning curve,” Blackwood said. She had to adjust to using online platforms to teach. Blackwood’s students also struggled to adapt to online classes.

Blackwood said it was hard for her students to find adequate training spaces. Additionally, her students had to deal with household distractions and faulty internet connections.

Despite this imperfect scenario, Blackwood has tried to keep things positive with her students. She asked her ballet 2 students what their favorite part of the pandemic had been. “Every one of them said their favorite part of the pandemic was taking ballet,” Blackwood said.

She has had to modify her approach to teaching. Rather than focusing on correcting her students, Blackwood has used positive reinforcement to motivate them. “They’re dealing with so much,” Blackwood said. “You have to stay positive with them.”

Although some advanced students are slowly returning to the studio, Blackwood said she will continue to teach several levels online. “It’s not an ideal way to teach ballet,” she said. “In person is much, much better. But online is better than nothing.”

Social distancing guidelines will still apply at the studio. Instructors and students will remain six feet apart from each other—a measure which will limit dance variations students can perform.

Through this experience, Blackwood said her students have realized the academy cares for them as individuals—and not just as dancers. “We’re not just teaching (students) ballet,” Blackwood said. “We’re giving them a valuable part of their life.”

Josha Williams has been teaching pre-ballet sections at the academy. In a studio setting, Williams said she would connect with her students one-on-one, but online, this kind of communication is nearly impossible. Household distractions and students’ short attention spans forced Williams to adopt new strategies, including wearing silly hats and being more energetic to keep her students engaged. “They have a very animated world virtually, and I’m not used to that,” Williams said. “My training is not to be super funny and silly.”

Williams had to innovate. “I had to formulate a new type of structure for how we would go about classes,” Williams said. She adapted to how her students were feeling each day and proceeded accordingly. If the students were tired, Williams would modify her lesson and start with slow exercises. Other times, she would switch exercises if her students were becoming distracted. Consistency was key throughout the process.

“Young children need structure and consistency,” Williams said. Once she had established a flow to her classes, Williams started adding new activities each week.

Williams said her students struggled finding adequate floor surfaces to practice on. “The floors matter,” Williams said. “The type of floor is very important even when they’re training as a young dancer.” According to Williams, performing certain variations on surfaces other than marley — the standard ballet floor — can lead to possible injuries. Despite the limitations, Williams said her students have improved.

As she stepped into the uncharted territory of online dance instruction, Williams decided to treat this time as a learning experience. The unique obstacles she faced forced her to view dance from a different angle — as a form of communication. “It (was) a deeper exploration of what that art form is, and what it means to me,” Williams said.

If given the chance, she said she would teach dance online in the future. However, Williams thinks her students and fellow teachers will appreciate attending in-person lessons once again.

 

 

Share



Related Photo Galleries


Leave a Comment



Trending: Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, Obituaries, Chon Restaurant, Allen Bennett Hospital