For everyone, the national lockdowns and initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic were surreal to say the least. For those of you who are dance students, I am sure you had a distinct experience with the transition that happened during March, 2020. Kitchens became studios, chairs became barres, across-the-floor combinations became exercises in maneuvering between furniture and family members. Pets won our hearts as the most lovable obstacles, participating in adagios or curiously peering at the computer screen. Instead of moving with physical contact and collective energy, dance students could only see their peers through a narrow frame, a thumbnail on a gallery. These experiences were the central feature of my master's dissertation at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
I interviewed dance students from all over the world to hear about how they were transitioning their training in response to the lockdowns. The results of a thematic analysis indicated that dance students' experiences with online dance education are primarily informed by their access to resources, ability to continue learning, engagement with community, and sources of motivation.
In the height of lockdowns, there was also a unilateral sentiment among the dancers, voicing a longing to return to studios again. However, training in an online setting taught us about adaptability, motivation, and resilience, among many other lessons. As studios and schools are now adapting their protocols to find safe ways to practice in-person, together again, and often masked, dancers now carry these experiences with them and the online presence of dance education will forever be changed by the experiences of COVID-19.
While the results of this dissertation revealed certain answers, many questions arose from my conversations with dancers that warrant further exploration and research. How is dance shared? What does it mean to be "live?" What defines an education in dance and who has access to it?
These experiences and the investigations into online dance education open an important discussion about how digital platforms can effectively be used as productive, accessible and creative resources. Even after social-distancing or online learning is no longer a mandate in response to this global pandemic, there will still be opportunities to further explore the benefits of online dance education and apply the lessons learned from this period to the development of dance in the future.
If you want to share your lockdown stories, what you learned or how you navigated dancing at home, we would love to hear from you. And as always, if you have any questions, pop us a message @body.kinect