Until recently, I had not thought much about this word -- flexible -- or about the concept of flexibility. As a dance teacher, flexibility really only had one everyday meaning to me -- a set of warm-ups and stretches I would work on with my dancers, to help them achieve the freedom of movement needed for their growing dance skills. I took flexibility at face value, and quite frankly I did not put much more thought into it. Same for you?
While in the shower the other day (because, that's the best place to think, right??), it occurred to me that we teachers and studio owners actually know a LOT more about being flexible than perhaps we've given ourselves credit for. Everything around us is changing; our classrooms have been forced to become virtual, our carefully planned events have been postponed, and the connections with our students, which we treasure the most, have taken a new form. But, has that stopped us? NO! Absolutely not.
We commend you! In our own way, we are all out here being the absolute definition of FLEXIBLE, changing and adapting as needed to make it all work. All of you are brilliant, and you know your students and what they need. We have been trying all sorts of ideas to stay connected with our students, and to keep our dance studio business moving forward. We all need a little inspiration once in a while, and we hope these tips might spur some new jumping-off-points for you!
#1 -- Something For Everyone
Just like in the actual classroom, our students' learning styles in the new online format can vary. Some kids are very self-motivated and will watch every video, participate in every dance bingo challenge and attend every Zoom class you offer. Others may only be able to get themselves to the live sessions, as the social connection is what they crave. We've found that by offering both live sessions and recorded videos that they can watch at anytime, we are hitting the mark for a larger population of our dancers. Flexibility for the win!
#2 -- Together While Apart
Our young dancers love seeing their progress, and when we were in the studio, they would receive a sticker on their chart after every class. Now, whenever we see them at a live class, or if their parent emails us that they participated in a recorded video, we add a "sticker" to their online sticker chart! (The chart is just a Google doc shared with their parent and the stickers are fun images we insert onto the page!) For our younger and older students alike, we have hosted fun "extracurriculars" each week, to try to keep them connected with their friends and teachers. Some things we've done are:
Dance Storytime on our Facebook page
Trivia Nights using the app Kahoot
Friday Night Dance Parties on our Facebook page
We've also posted a list of words needed for a funny Mad Lib (like "a verb ending in "ing" or a plural noun, etc) on social media, and used the words in the comments to build funny dance stories as a group. BONUS -- We have a couple of these Dance Fill-In Stories at the bottom of this post that you can download and use with your students!
#3 -- What Next??
This has been the constant big question for us! This "new normal" is also the time when we've had to adapt and really push ourselves to think outside the box. As you likely did too, our studio had our summer class and camp plan all set and ready to go...........and then corona.......enough said. After lots of brain warm-ups, we put on the figurative music and STRETCHED those ideas until we got more flexible! We pared down the number of technique classes on our schedule and added 10 minutes to the time between each class, to account for the possible continued restrictions regarding the number of people allowed in the space at a time, if we are allowed to meet in person this summer. We re-worked our classes and camps (and their prices too) so that they can work virtually with both live and recorded sessions, but also transition to in-studio if possible. We asked ourselves, how can we make this feel different than the past two and a half months of classes we've been holding online? For us, the answer was to make it more immersive, with physical materials sent or dropped off to our dancers, and with a subject matter that delves into history and choreography as well as technique and combos. Did this plan work? That remains to be seen -- but we've got our positive pants on and we're going to promote it and continue sending our love to our dancers!
We hope that some of these ideas might spark an new thought for you and your dancers! What are some things that you've been doing to stay flexible that have worked for you? Please share in the comments!
BONUS - Activities to share with your dancers!
Two fun fill-in-the-blank word stories, in the style of Mad Libs.