Tips for Success in Virtual Dance Classes

Zoë E. Hunter

virtual dance student practicing at home

When global changes occur and events move online, many dancers find themselves taking dance classes remotely from home, either by preference or for lack of available in-person options. People are teaching dance virtually, earning online dance degrees and taking at-home classes for fun. Those passionate about dance turn their passion into a career, meeting industry demand for professionals in various roles.

While the virtual route is not always ideal and can present unique challenges involving technology or your space, here a few tips to help you be successful in your virtual dance classes:

1. Get Your Space Ready

Before your class even starts, you need to find a space with a strong internet connection where you can dance safely. Since not everyone has access to a studio, it is important to improvise the best space you can. The most important thing is to make sure you are safe.

Do not jump on concrete floors or do pointe on a slippery surface. Avoid being surrounded by things you might kick or otherwise putting yourself in harm’s way. Ideally, you want to have space to do grand battements/kicks in all directions, space to put your arms up when on relevé and space for a full X on the floor during floorwork. If possible, wood floors are best, but other clear spaces can be used if you adapt safely.

Now, what if you do not have an ideal space? Providing that your environment is safe, there are ways to modify and adapt:

  • If space is limited: Try modifying the combination to be more compact (for example, by not fully extending), changing the angle to fit (perhaps making it diagonal) or turning and traveling back to where you came from.
  • If your floor is too hard or you cannot jump: Change jumps to relevés, mark the jumps with foot articulation on one foot, or focus on arm/whole body movements instead of jumps. Depending on how hard the floor is, you might consider wearing supportive, cushioned sneakers, jumping on a carpet or grass or putting a yoga mat where you jump. Be smart about the limitations of your space to avoid injury.
  • If your floor is too slippery: Consider adjusting your footwear or even going barefoot if that is safe. You could also try socks, jazz shoes or sneakers with more traction. Pointe dancers: To avoid the risk of falling, do not do pointe work on a slippery floor; talk to your instructor about your floor and consider rosin. Work only at the barre or dance on flat until your you have appropriate flooring.
  • If you need a mirror but do not have one: Try focusing on internal rather than visual cues to correct yourself. Or put your camera on full-screen and use that image as a reflection.
  • If you need a ballet barre: See what you have available that is the right height – counters, backs of chairs, tables, etc. You could also make a barre out of pipes or (if your teacher approves) challenge yourself by not using a barre.

2. Logging In

An important step to a successful online dance class experience is making sure you have the correct login information and are ready to go. For easy access when it is time for class, write the information on a sticky note or put the link in a virtual calendar with the sign-in information. Be sure to sign in a few minutes early so you can be let into the virtual classroom without stress and still have time to warm up.

Once you are signed in, double check to make sure that you are muted with your camera on and – to avoid confusing the instructors – that your display name is your real name, not a nickname or the name of a person whose account you are borrowing.

Other tips:

  • Check your camera placement in your space: Can you see your instructor? Can your instructor see as much of you as is possible in your space? Taking a class via phone is possible but not ideal. Find the best available device and space combination for your needs. You may need to adjust your camera during the class so that the instructor can see you during floor work or see your feet during footwork.
  • Put any distracting devices away: Give yourself the same chance to focus – and give your instructor/classmates the same respect – as you would in person.
  • Prepare your supplies: Make sure you have water, a snack to eat between classes, any tools or props you need for class (TheraBand, foam blocks, mats, etc.) and light layers to adjust to changing temperatures in your space.

3. Communication

Did your Wi-Fi or your instructor’s cut out? Did the instructor drop to floorwork you could not see in the frame? Learning online brings its own confusions. Do the best you can, and do not be afraid to ask questions; your instructors are there to help you. Depending on instructor preferences, you can unmute or use a chat function to ask for clarification or a different angle or for something to be repeated.

Also, in these unusual times, make sure to keep your instructor apprised of any relevant changes in your life, such as changes in access to your space, injuries, challenges, illness of any kind, etc. When everything is virtual, communication is more essential than ever.

4. Take Care of Yourself

Life can be stressful, and self-care is important. In an online dance class, it is especially important to remain balanced and give yourself grace where it is needed. Part of that balance is to keep moving forward to improve your technique despite challenging circumstances. See what you can focus on, even if it is not jumps or turns or expansive movements. There are opportunities to grow and develop your technique, even from home in an online setting.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13, NKJV

Want to find out more about the dance program at Grand Canyon University or the College of Fine Arts and Production? Click on the Request Info button at the top of your screen to get started.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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