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Homes now have a studio avatar as people take to learning dance online

Both teachers and students have had to adapt to the challenges of digital dance classes

Fourteen-year-old Netanya Joel settled into a routine fairly quickly. Since March-end, after finishing her online classes (on school days), eating lunch and resting for a bit, she gets into dance mode: jazz on Fridays and Saturdays and ballet on Sundays.

With nearly everything moving online, it is perhaps not surprising that many students have also taken to dancing in their own homes as their instructor watches and guides them via the computer.

While admitting that in-person classes are better because she gets to meet and chat with her teacher and friends, Netanya is pragmatic as she adds, “Since it doesn’t look like dance classes will open any time soon, online classes are the only solution for us to keep up with our dance.”

It is a lot harder for students and teachers to see just what the other is doing by focussing on a small box on the screen. Netanya says that in her case, the students are given the instructions and if they are not doing it right, the teacher shows them how to.

Her teacher Prerna Yadav, founder of The Movement Studio in Chennai, who also holds classes in contemporary dance, says: “I follow a syllabus kind of structure for all the dance styles I teach. I realised it couldn’t be entirely adapted to the online medium, that too immediately.” So, the first thing she did was to come up with a new curriculum, depending on the class level and age group.

“I also had to come up with lots of games to keep children’s attention. The students’ learning process has shifted as well; they are watching the teacher and listening, more than looking for verbal cues. So, I have had to adapt my teaching style to their learning process. It’s been challenging that way. Whatever I would teach in an hour, it took me two sessions to teach as ballet, particularly, is very precise,” she says.

Just dance

  • Lourd Vijay Dance Studio (9845239123)
  • The Movement Studio (9884029319)
  • Tarantismo (8884761444)
  • Shiamak Davar’s Institute for Performing Arts (022 61543000)

Having started online classes on March 29, Prerna had to adapt to the situation and has made several changes: from stopping classes for children aged five and under to not taking new students. Apart from students dropping out, these measures also led to a drop in numbers: 55 students to 30 now.

Well-known dancer and instructor Lourd Vijay who runs the Lourd Vijay Dance Studio in Bengaluru, closed the space two weeks before the lockdown was announced on March 25 and started online classes soon after.

Recently, the studio even announced Latin ballroom classes for juniors in addition to the online party on Friday evenings billed as “You bring the wine and snacks, I will bring in the music and moves.” The moves, in question, being Salsa and Bachata. The studio offers classes in about 11 styles, including jive, swing, as well as ‘hot moves’, created by Lourd.

While they continued the old schedules online, by May-end, he says, people had realised that the situation was not going to end and many were also facing lay-offs. “There was a huge lull in April till the beginning of June. Now, people have started enrolling in classes again (we have lost all our old students though). The June to August period has been a fresh start for dance schools all across the world.”

According to Lourd, while an in-person class is irreplaceable, people have begun to realise the many benefits that online classes offer: “There is no hassle of travel. Parents especially faced a huge logistical nightmare when their children come for in-person classes, such as who will pick up the child and so on. It is also beneficial for people working from home who don’t have any other form of exercise; a perfect way to get some cardio in.”

He adds, “From my perspective, if it is a huge group, I can’t give personal attention to each individual. I think that online classes are a little more personalised because I can look at a screen, zoom in on a person, figure out how they are doing and tell them if it is wrong or can be better. The class is also recorded so we can go back to it.”

Since it is online, the reach extends far beyond Bengaluru. “We have students from the US, parts of Southeast Asia, Dubai, Oman, and across India. It is also good for people from small towns who now have access to quality dance instructors.”

While several dances can be learnt individually such as jazz, ballet and hip-hop, others rely on having a partner such as in Latin ballroom. Lourd explains, “All the dances right now are focussed on footwork. Every couple dance has a solo element to it. That is learnt first and then it is put together with the partner work. We are focussing on the solo element for the next few months. However, there are many couples who have joined. So that works well.”

For Netanya, who has been dancing since she was six, there is nothing quite like it. “I love dancing. It helps me get out of my zone. If you are angry or sad, you can just put everything in your dance and let it all out. You feel good.”

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