With times so grim and so little space while cooped up inside, it can be hard for people to feel like dancing.
But Angelica Bell, artistic director for Factory Street Dance Studio in Athens, said the nonprofit dance studio – like a lot of arts, entertainment and educational establishments here and across the globe – has found a way to make “lemons out of lemonade.”
The studio is continuing to provide dance education to its dancers of varying age groups online, through live and pre-recorded video.
“We have pre-recorded classes for every single class at the studio,” Bell explained in an interview Tuesday. “And also for the older kids we’re seeing, age 10 and up, they get a Zoom (video conference) class component as well… We’re also doing some social stuff because normally, these kids would have some kind of events together. We (previously) did sleepovers at the studio for the older kids.”
But because of Ohio’s stay-at-home coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention order and the need for social distancing in general, that socialization aspect is missing for many of Factory Street’s students, Bell said. So, now her studio is doing “Netflix parties” and having weekly social chats for students in each of the age levels so they can at least see each other.
The hardest part about the pivot to online education?
“Keeping people motivated and excited to still dance despite our (annual spring) concert being canceled,” Bell replied. “There was one teacher I had that said, ‘how do you get people to dance when people just don’t feel like dancing?’ It’s such a simple question but it’s not. It’s really hard to just want to keep doing fun things.”
Still, Factory Street is persisting with the online education, and teachers are having some fun while doing it.
Plus, Bell said she thinks they’ve arrived at an innovative solution for the lack of the annual spring concert, which is typically hosted at Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville.
“We’re doing an online kind of community video instead where each of the students hopefully… will send me video clips, and we’re going to create one giant dance video for the semester,” she said.
Bell said she’s hoping that video will be ready by May 16.
There are a few other positives to come out of the pivot to online teacher, Bell added.
“As a teacher, I’m getting to know my students better in a way that I just wouldn’t in my everyday routine,” she explained. “…I’m getting to talk to them about what they’re doing and how they’re feeling. So it’s kind of been a bonding experience.”
Dancing in confined spaces also offers the potential for some “really cool creative opportunities,” Bell added. When teaching composition, for example, the dancers and teachers can play with the idea of “confinement” – i.e., how to dance in a closed-in-area while using that dance to express themes about confinement itself.
“It’s a creative challenge,” Bell said.
As of Tuesday, Factory Street was still planning on offering its usual summer camp classes, but that could change based on any new directives from the state. More information and how to sign up can be found at https://factorystreetstudio.org/.