2 January 2021
The first lockdown was very hard, as it was for everyone: we had to motivate the students, who were hit by something bigger than themselves, and, at the same time, try to save our work.
From day one, I kept in touch with all my students, younger and older alike, by sending every day a good morning message, and then a link to a video to watch, or pages to read, drawings to make, etc.
After three weeks (despite technology not being my cup of tea), I got used to teaching on Zoom and we started with online lessons. This motivated the vocational course students and kept the younger ones interested.
We did everything as if we were in school: classical dance, pointe work, contemporary dance, physical training, with more and more complete lessons, including barre, centre practice and even jumps, (once we were accustomed to the various floors!). Everyone was able to cover their flooring with linoleum and get a barre or a chair ready for the classes.
Some attended the classes indoors, some on their terrace, some others in their garden, yet nobody ever missed a class! This has definitely helped to keep us teachers motivated.
Networking via social media
To remember and cherish these moments of joy, we shot videos of contemporary dance solo improvisations and group videos in which everyone danced something, which were later shared on social networks. This also allowed us to discover their great creative skills.
The 2020 graduates managed to find a place in a dance company or post-graduate course through online auditions - more than 90 former students, now professional dancers in companies around the world, sent in their testimonials. We put together their short videos and merged them to create a ‘video of encouragement’ that we then posted on social media.
From the end of May to the end of July, we held in-person classes and were also able to host the ISTD and RAD exams. The second lockdown came in the autumn. Fortunately, we only had to close for 20 days because we are affiliated with AICS, a promotion body recognised by CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee). The students of the vocational courses have always had to submit an athletic medical certificate to attend our courses (as per our school regulations).
Our older students were able to “train” daily in our studios, in accordance with the strict COVID protocols, and they are still doing so now. Only the pas de deux lessons cannot be held because there can be no contact between the students. The younger students, on the other hand, are still working on Zoom with great enthusiasm.
At Christmas, we had two full days of lessons on Zoom that were open to parents, covering classical dance, contemporary dance, ballet variations and contemporary solos/improvisations.
The parents really enjoyed them and the students felt gratified because they were dancing for someone.
Continuing to learn and cope during Covid-19
Being in a studio is already motivating and participating in competitions –even online– is a further incentive; taking exams and preparing for auditions for dance companies only adds to our students’ motivation.
Constant attention is needed to motivate the older students, those attending Advanced 2 and pre-professional training courses, who are graduating this year. They understandably feel the consequences of scarcity of work more than the other students. For this reason, our school now collaborates with a mental coach/psychologist, who helps them manage their emotions and implements individual strategies for processing them. This work is also extended to the Advanced 1 and Intermediate groups.
It is hard and difficult, but the results of this approach can already be seen and this will not be deemed ‘a lost year’. Our students’ parents, with whom I am often in contact via email and Zoom, are happy with what we are doing. This is obviously important when it comes to retaining our students and, hopefully, we will see all our students again next September.
This is my experience during a period when dance is not considered at all, while for the children who practice it, it is essential, it is life, and for all of us teachers it means work and emotional closeness with our students, and perhaps we have never been so close to them.