A Brave New Studio: The Essentials for Online Learning
By Matthew Shaffer
The sun slowly melts into the amber sky, which explodes with fuchsia accents. I glance down at my wristwatch to discover it’s only six o’clock and it’s almost dark––the fall is here. A time ordinarily marked by the distant sounds of high school stadiums erupting with cheer, back-to-school bake sales, and hunting for the perfect Halloween costume. Our “new normal” includes social distancing and e-learning from the online island in our bedrooms.
In order to give yourself a leg up (preferably standing on the ball of your foot, with energy in the supporting leg, pulled up, turned out, with your hips square, ribcage closed, and strong arms utilizing your scapula), while learning from home, I’ve designed a list of the essential tools to thrive in an online environment:
- A positive attitude. It’s an overwhelming time, but if we maintain a pleasant outlook, we’re more open to receiving and processing information in a useful way.
- A clutter free work space. While learning online, it is easy to become distracted. Removing all of the unnecessary books, posters, pictures, toys, and yes––even your smartphone––you’ll be less likely to get sidetracked. Focus is the foundation for success.
- A strong WiFi connection. If you spend more time trying to log-on than you do learning, you won’t receive the benefit of the online experience.
- A sense of humor. After all, it’s the Internet, home of hilariously contagious cat videos. If you can’t laugh at a frozen screen, a minor malfunction, or the fact that you just tripped over your dog’s chew toy instead of landing the perfect pirouette (remember that part about a clean zone?), then you’re doomed for drama.
- Water and a healthy snack. Hydration and fuel to keep your mind and body engaged and ready to learn. P.S. Don’t eat while dancing. Save it for the breaks between combos.
- An external speaker. You can find affordable Bluetooth speakers that will provide a full sound that transports you out of the basement and into the studio!
- A notepad and pen. Whether it’s a dance class or History; your teachers are sharing insight and information that will help you grow as an artist and person. When they’ve said something that inspires you, write it down and revisit it after class.
- A chair. You’re right, you should NEVER sit in a dance class! But, don’t you think you’ll have a more well-rounded tendu combination, at a ballet barre? Guess what the back of that chair is?
- Energy and etiquette. It’s easy to “check out” when you don’t have a teacher in the room watching your every move. It’s important to maintain a professional decorum. Online class is not an opportunity to catch up with a friend on social media or “text your mom your dinner order." Stay present and keep the zest in your step!
- An “on-camera” mentality. Every commercial dancer will tell you that performing for a camera is much different than shining on stage. The camera becomes the audience. Whereas in a theater, the audience can decide who they’re going to watch. The beauty of a camera lens, is that you decide what to put in the frame! Explore choreography, movement, and emotional reactions that can be captured in a more authentic way.
- Apolla Performance Socks. Duh? Dancing on carpet is always more fun with a quality support sock!
Of course we miss the exhilarating energy of an across-the-floor turn progression with fellow dancers or the live interaction with our favorite teachers and choreographers, but dancers know how to adapt. We spend our lives working in a discipline that requires us to be balanced, focused, and fearless. Online classes provide an opportunity to reimagine our artistic growth, while maintaining our mental and emotional health and athleticism!
I’ll see you on Zoom!
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