Dancing out of isolation

Dance class on Zoom
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Online classes might become a part of the core curriculum for this ballet and stretch company in the future. Marian Whyte reports

Online classes will continue post-lockdown for one local ballet company, after delivering clear benefits for both the school and students.

West Pointe Ballet Company owner Nicole Ryan said she would “absolutely” support online once all COVID-19 restrictions have ended.

While she had seen “some students really struggle”, online has been a surprisingly pleasant and beneficial experience for the Williamstown school, she said.

When isolation restrictions first arose, Ms Ryan said she had “no idea” how to teach online, or about online video conferencing app Zoom.

Within the first week the timetable and schedule for more than 100 students had been created, and Zoom classes began.

West Pointe student teacher Rebecca Gauci said the online experience was very different to the studio but adapting to the change “hasn’t been too difficult”.

“Students are more comfortable as they’re relaxed in their own space,” she said.

It could be difficult to give corrections and help students learn without a physical sign, she said. These included giving “a tap on the foot for the student to understand to point their feet, especially the younger students”.

The small screen size and lack of feeling a “sense of direction” online had provided problems.

But Ms Gauci said engaging with students and asking relevant questions was the key to creating a successful online teaching class. It was great to have a conversation and talk about what the students are learning, rather than “just teaching to a computer screen”.

Circus performer and instructor Christine Lee said she received an “overwhelming response” to her Facebook post suggesting online stretching classes.

“I wondered if I taught a few stretching classes, would anyone attend,” she said.

By creating a Facebook group she was able to receive feedback on how to run her lessons, and she “just kept on building from that”.

Ms Lee said it was both easy and hard for people to attend the Zoom classes. For teaching, though, in person is best so she can “spot people for safety”.

Ms Lee has been teaching two to five classes per day, making it a success in replacing her main income.

She said it had opened an online option for her, which could continue post-lockdown, depending on support.