Dancing to a different beat: Outside dance classes continue to struggle with the virtual setting

CAPTION: Sophomore Emily Haws dances alongside her class virtually.

By Mayah Moore,

BlueDevilHUB.com Staff–

UC Davis student Katie Dineen sits in her dorm room charging her laptop and reviewing the combinations she’ll teach her class of dancers later that day. Elsewhere, sophomore Emily Haws attempts to place her laptop so that her whole body will be visible to her teacher in her Zoom dance class.  Standing outside of Mirror Image Dance Company, sophomore Sophia Ballard and other dancers wearing masks get ready to start dance class on flooring installed in the parking lot.

This is the reality for dancers around the world who are finding new ways to keep doing what they love.

Haws dances with Applegate Dance Company outside of school and also takes Advanced Dance at Davis High.

“Dance is a way to use movement to express yourself and to tell a story,” Haws said. 

Both classes are now held online via Zoom.

Haws and many other dancers have had to deal with dancing in very small spaces and on dangerous flooring, as well as with distractions from family members and pets.

“Dance is such a contact thing,” said Holly Welpott, an Applegate Dance Company teacher. 

It has been difficult for her to make sure her dancers are enjoying themselves.

“[Zoom] is just a really hard way to learn something like the art of dance,” Welpott said.

DHS dance teacher and local dance company owner Pamela Trokanski has adapted her teaching style to Zoom, and sees some silver linings to the situation. “I’ve been very grateful that my teaching style developed the way it did. I count a lot, I’ve always been a counter […] four years old and up they’re singing the plié song with me,” Trokanski said.

Other dancers are focusing more on how to connect with each other. Dineen is the head of public relations at Released Contemporary Dance Company, and her company has had to rethink ways to stay connected while staying safe and to redefine what makes them a team.

“It’s forced us to think in new ways, and step out of our comfort zone […] Choreography has had to adapt, but it’s made us more creative,” Dineen said.

Dineen and her company have been finding new ways to stay connected as a team outside of dance. “We have Zoom hangouts and play Among Us and other online games to stay connected with each other,” Dineen said.

Other dancers have taken a different approach.

Ballard is a dancer at Mirror Image Dance Company. The company attempted online classes, but was unsuccessful because dancers didn’t feel as connected with each other and, according to Ballard, was “just way too much Zoom.” Frustrated by the lack of camaraderie, they decided to make their own safe, socially distanced environment to dance in person.

Dancers and teachers worked together to install dance flooring in the parking lot of the studio. They have classes there regularly, wearing masks and staying distanced from each other.

Ballard enjoys dancing outdoors. “I mean being outside in fresh air […] it’s a good kind of different,” Ballard said.

Dancers have faced many challenges during quarantine, but that has not stopped them from prioritizing their craft. Trokanski, Welpott and Haws agree that in the end it will prepare dancers for new challenges in the dance world.

“[It’s about] seeing how to support each other and make the most of the situation,” Dineen said. “Even though dance might look different, it’s still just as important and beautiful, so get up and get out there.”

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