Dance classes have been offered through online learning for quite a while, many of these programs contain pre-recorded lessons that you can take and do at your own pace and leisure. But recently there has been a growing need for dance studios and teachers to provide live, real-time dance classes in a virtual online format for those students either choosing to stay home or being mandated to do so.
Learning dance via a pre-recorded video and in real-time have many similarities but there are also many differences, the main one being that in a live class with your dance studio teacher, students need to have a camera on themselves during the class to receive real-time feedback and corrections from their teacher.
The following 10 tips apply to both pre-recorded and live classes, and for a more in-depth look at how parents can specifically support their children in their virtual dance classes take a read of my article – How to Set Your Child Up To Succeed In Their Virtual Online Dance Classes where I write a lot about my personal experience with my two girls and how our online experience is so much better our second time around after learning through trial and error what works and what doesn’t in our home.
1. Ensure You Have A Good Internet Connection
If you are paying to do dance lessons whether pre-recorded or live you need a fast and reliable internet service. If your internet service is slow you will be all pumped and ready to do your pre-recorded lesson only to have to sit there for 5-20 minutes while you wait for the lesson to upload or buffer. It is even more important to ensure you have the best internet connection you can afford if doing real-time lessons because you can’t go back over anything you have missed. If your internet drops out or freezes you are losing the precious opportunity to be learning and receiving feedback from your teacher.
2. Choose Your Home Dance Space Based on: Flooring, Size and Distractions
Just because the garage has the largest open space in your home, does not mean you should be dancing there. Dancers should never dance on concrete as it is one of the fastest and surest ways to obtain an injury as the surface has no shock absorbency. Choose a space based not only on the size but also the flooring. Wooden flooring is great and carpet is ok as well – but just be aware that with today’s building techniques that wooden planks and carpet can just be glued over concrete so if you are feeling alot of shock through your legs when dancing on your chosen surface, it may be because there is no underlay or not quality underlay under your flooring and you may need to look at a portable flooring solution to make your surface safer.
Finding the best space in your house may mean that you need to rearrange furniture or at least push it to the side to create the largest space possible.
One last thing to think about when choosing your space is to find an area that is relatively quiet and free of distractions. If you choose to do your ballet class in the kitchen because of the wooden floors and make shift bench ballet barre, you may find you are continually interrupted by others in your house coming in or out, or you might yourself get distracted by the temptation of the fridge and pantry throughout your lesson. These kind of distractions are not only interrupting your learning but can be quite rude for your teacher to have to put up with as well. Be respectful and choose a location where you can really concentrate fully on your lesson and to be able to give your teacher your full attention.
3. Choose The Best Screen and Camera For Your Space
Using the biggest screen you can stream your lesson onto is always the best, but if you also need to use a camera to send real-time footage of yourself to your teacher, you may have to look at different setups and options to ensure your whole body can be seen so your teacher can give you corrections as you dance. I give you some different tips on how to do this in my article How to Set Your Child Up To Succeed In Their Virtual Online Dance Classes.
Choosing your screen may also be dependent on tip #1 or #2. For example although your television might be the biggest screen your internet connection isn’t great when you mirror your device to it or the room might be too small to dance in or the flooring inappropriate meaning your opt to use a smaller but portable screen in a different room in your house.
4. Have the Right Equipment and Tools
If you are a tap dancer you will need to have portable flooring to tap on otherwise you are going to ruin the floors in your home. I have some options in my article about what tap dancers need here that you can check out. If you are a ballet dancer, practicing pirouettes and pointework is easier and safer at home on portable dance flooring such as a Dot 2 Dance which I review on my resource page here.
If you are a ballet dancer using the back of the chair for you barre work is fine for a while but if you are serious about improving your dancing investing in a ballet barre such as one that I review in this article here is a good investment. If you like a DIY project check out all my instructions and tutorials on how to make a DIY PVC or Metal Barre from the DIY Ballet Barre Home Page which I’ll link to here.
5. Use a Mirror or Record Yourself to ensure you are not developing bad techniques or habits.
When you are doing a dancing lesson at home it is good to be able to see yourself doing the steps and moves to ensure that what you feel like you are doing is actually what it is supposed to look like. As you don’t have a teacher in the room for you to walk up to you and help place your body into the correct alignment or position you need to be more self-aware and so a mirror will help to ensure you are starting to pick up bad habits or techniques unknowingly.
Alternatively if you can’t get a mirror, film yourself doing certain exercises and routines and then watch them back and critique your errors making sure that when you do the exercise again you are working on correcting whatever you picked up.
If you have a studio teacher they may be willing to look at your videos for you and give you a critique. If you are using a paid pre-recorded option, the provider might offer a service where you pay for them to give you feedback and if not you can email and ask them if they could offer you this service.
6. Test All Your Settings Before The Class Starts
If your class is being held live it is important to test everything you have set up for your class in advance to make sure everything is working as you imagined. If your class is pre-recorded you will at least be able to pause the video if your set up needs to be adjusted, but if your class is live and you need to fix and readjust things, you will end up missing out on valuable class time having to fix things.
7. Home Practice outside of class times.
Doing your classes online should be treated with the same seriousness as going to the actual studio to do class – don’t treat is as home practice, as that should be done on top of doing your online lessons. Outside of your online classes you should still be stretching, trying to master difficult steps you have learned and strengthening your muscles. If your teacher has recorded exercises or steps for you to learn before your next online class you should be learning that or going over what you did in your last lesson.
8. Dress for Success
Even though you are at home and doing your dance class in your PJ’s sounds like a comfy and easy option, DON’T! Unless of course your teacher has a fun pajama lesson week which ours just did!
There are several reasons for this;
Firstly leotards and tights or leggings and crop tops are worn for a reason – they are not fashion statements. They allow you and your teacher to see your body and muscles easily and you are less likely to injure yourself in your ballet wear then if you had a baggy onesie on.
Secondly, when you dress the part you show not just your teacher but also yourself that you are taking your learning seriously. It helps create a mindset within yourself that you are prepared to do the work.
Thirdly, when we do lessons online it is usually because we are unable to leave our house – whether that be because it is a snow day, there are health reasons, transport issues or perhaps we are doing them to be able to be taught by a specific teacher. Getting dressed in our dance gear helps to create routines and habits which will ultimately support your online dance learning.
9. Stay Informed – Read All Those Newsletters and Social Media Posts
Class times change and urls, links and passwords are always being updated so make sure especially before your class you have read any newsletters your teachers have sent out or read any messages posted on social media at they may include important information that affects you.
10. Set Goals To Stay Motivated
When you are learning to dance at home it can sometimes be hard to stay motivated and excited about doing your classes. For many of us we are passionate about dance because intrinsically it makes us happy. We are motivated not just by our passion but for the fact that our lessons usually end in some sort of performance or exam where we can show off our skills. But when we are learning from home that performance aspect can sometimes be missing and therefore we can begin to be less motivated to improve and work towards getting better.
Setting a goal that excites you or even scares you will give you that extra motivation you need if you are ever thinking of missing a class because your couch or bed look so much more inviting.
A great quote that I really think helps when we are learning to dance at home is:
Don’t make it your goal to dance better than anyone else. Make it your goal to dance better than yourself!
LASTLY…. Communicate With Your Teacher About Your Experience
Your teacher is not experiencing what you are on your end of the screen and therefore if you do not communicate with them any difficulties or things that are hindering your online learning they will never know that there is a problem or that you are not able to do dance class at an optimum level.
Your teacher wants you to learn, to grow and get better. If you are doing all the things that I have outlined in these top ten tips it is really important that you make time outside of class to speak with your teacher. You may find that you need a few one on one video lessons which your teacher or dance class provider may be able to provide you, or they may be able to steer you in the direction of other similar resources that can help you.