A guest post by Erika Mayall
SAFETY TIPS FOR TEACHING DANCE ONLINE
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dance educators around the world have suddenly been thrust into teaching classes through online platforms. Just in the same way that there are safety issues for dancers to consider when dancing at home (see more here), there are things that teachers also need to keep in mind while lesson planning for online classes.
Who are your students? If you’re teaching private classes for students from your own studio, you may already know the dancers who are in your ‘classroom’. However, if you’re opening these classes up to the public, you need to be aware of the different levels and abilities of the students attending. In this instance, offering options for various skill levels (for example performing a battement fondu a terre vs en l’air or on flat foot vs relevé) can help ensure dancers are not dancing beyond their skill level. In the absence of being able to see students in person and using tactile cueing for corrections, keep classes simple and focus on alignment and technique. Focusing on technique is never a bad idea!
Warm-up. Regardless of where you’re dancing, a proper warm-up is important for a variety of reasons. A warm up prepares the body for movement by slowly increasing heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. It also primes the nervous system for more complex movements. More importantly while dancing remotely, it allows dancers (and teachers) time to check in with their body. Are they feeling tight or restricted anywhere? Does anything hurt or feel sore? What is their breathing like? Since you are not physically in the room with your dancers, these are questions that should be posed to the dancers during warm-up to help prepare both mind and body for dance.
Flooring. If you’re used to teaching in a studio, you are likely used to marley sprung floors, or some variant of a professional dance floor. All of a sudden, your students are going to be dancing on carpet, tile, unfinished concrete basements and the list goes on. You cannot control the flooring available to your students, but you can adapt your class content to make sure it’s safe for all dancers. Avoid jumping to minimize the risk of injury from impact on improper flooring. Instead consider adding some plyometric training to your strength and conditioning program to maintain power for jumps. Avoid turns, especially for dancers on carpet. Instead, you can work on turn preparation, spotting, alignment and balance.
Footwear. You may need to consider adapting footwear for the flooring a dancer has available. If a dancer is used to dancing barefoot, they may need to wear socks or shoes to protect their feet. Likewise, tappers may need to forgo tap shoes temporarily and practice in alternate footwear. If you don’t have sprung floors available, consider running shoes for plyometric/jump training to help with shock absorption. Pointe work should only be attempted if the dancer has an appropriate floor surface or dance mat (something similar to this) available to them, and never on tile floor or carpet.
Your classes are likely going to look a lot different than ‘normal’ during this time. And that’s ok. These are not ‘normal’ times. Take this time to really connect with your students and allow them time to connect with each other. Allowing 10-15min at the beginning or end of class to just chat and check in to see how everyone is doing can go a long way in benefitting your dancer’s mental health.
Likewise, this is a fabulous time to explore other areas of dance that we often don’t have time for. Consider implementing new strength and conditioning programs, cross training for dance, mental skills training, or introducing nutrition for dancers. Not your area of expertise? No problem. Ask an expert in one of these fields to host an online class with your dancers. There are many professionals in the dancer health and wellness fields who are also currently stuck working from home and would likely be happy to share their knowledge with the larger dance community.
Not sure how to locate an expert? Here are some resources to help with your search.
If this article left you dying to know more from Erika she can be reached on her website Allegro Performance