In these uncertain, restless, and mentally unsound times, many of us might be starting to find it difficult to roll out of our bed and not, you know, just roll back into it and call it a day. We suddenly exist in a world of limitations where it’s becoming particularly difficult to do anything but eat, sleep and drink (a lot of rosé). As we enter day 10? 13? 24? of self-isolation, our lives have moved almost completely online; Zoom, Skype, Factime, Google Hangouts—they own us now.
A lot of this lifestyle shift is a concession, replacing human socialization with a lifeless computer screen. For many dancers, the online version of a dance class can hardly compare to a traditional setting. The details of a body in movement are harder to appreciate online, and harder for a teacher to correct—dance is a hands-on art form. Not to mention it’s difficult to saut de chat in your living room. But, if you’ve never taken a dance class before, it also might very well be the best time to get started.
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The privacy of one’s own home constructs a safety net for novice movers. Where walking into a dance studio full of people who may or may not be more advanced than you has the potential to deter a lot of newcomers, starting out in the comfort of your personal space allows the freedom for goofiness, mess ups, even improvisation, without the fear of being watched or judged. And, although due to our unfortunate circumstances, there are now plenty of online, anonymous opportunities for all ages of new dancers to tap into an unleashed Misty Copeland alter ego.
Many professional dancers have taken to Instagram Live to offer free dance classes. Tiler Peck, principal with the New York City Ballet, is hosting classes every Monday through Friday at 1 p.m. ET. Her classes will gear towards all levels, but may require slightly more experience than a true beginner. Mark Morris Dance Center, whose IRL classes are fantastic for beginners, is livestreaming dances classes of all styles and levels on Youtube daily. You can find their schedule here. You could even take a dance class from a studio in another state that you might not normally have ever visited. Maryland Youth Ballet has a great adult and children’s program and has posted a series of videos for various levels on their website. And if you’re looking for something more fitness-based to get your cardio going, 305 Fitness founder Sadie Kurzban is hosting dance party workouts twice a day on Youtube from her home in Miami. You could leave this quarantine knowing how to twerk!
Deborah Lohse, a teaching artist with Lincoln Center who could be found teaching and performing all over the city before the days of quarantine, taught her third coronavirus-warranted online dance class on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET live on Lincoln Center’s Facebook page. The class is part of Lincoln Center’s new #LincolnCenterAtHome program and is geared toward younger dancers (though she promises that any age group can participate). Knowing that most viewers will be in their homes, Lohse looks at the limitations of our situation as an opportunity to challenge dancers to make movement inspired by the shapes of their rooms. “I’m asking the students to look at their living room, bedroom, dining room, wherever they are, in a new way. Maybe we haven’t done so in a long time, or ever.”
With the class being streamed live, there’s no visual contact with her students. When I ask how this might affect her teaching, Lohse points out that her niece will be watching from California, and hopefully also some of her students from her public school program. “That instant gratification of watching bodies react won’t be there, but I’m going to treat my screen like it’s my niece, and all my friends’ kids.” Ultimately, Lohse is excited for the improvisational opportunity that streaming brings with it. “I’m excited to riff and play and stoke my own inspirational, joyful fires for myself.” Though different and not necessarily equal to an in-person dance class, Lohse has a positive outlook on the situation. “If I can enter into somebody’s house and give them a reprieve, 40 minutes of moving their body and actually looking at the space that is keeping them safe right now and doing a dance in honor of that space, that feels really purposeful.”
So, not only is it a great time for anyone who has ever had an inkling to try a dance class to do so, it might also be just what you need mentally. “It’s a reminder as we get more and more sucked into everything going online, that we’re still physical human beings…not just talking heads,” Lohse says. “I would encourage people, people who feel like they’re not dancers, this is a time to reinvent, a time to take risks, and a time to expand. Follow the things that are bringing them joy and take a dance class.”