Dancing in a Pandemic

Dancing in a Pandemic

First of all, I expect most of us are home or working as best we can from home.  That being said, over the years, we have known numerous nurses and doctors who found dancing a great way to relieve the daily stress of their jobs, even long before the talk of pandemics.  To all of those first responders and critical workers who are keeping the shelves stocked and saving lives or keeping life as we know it going, I say THANKS and know you do too.  I know students who own ALF’s and other care facilities who must be going through all the possible angst and fear of each of us multiplied by the number of beds they care for that will hopefully gain some comfort and support from their studio family who with a quick text and emoji can lighten their day, even if for only a few moments.  Hopefully we can offer a step or two to make their day easier.  So, don’t forget to reach out.

I know a number of dance studios and organizations are reaching out to offer their ideas of staying involved while sequestered.  We have champions telling the world how to angle your hand, while dancing in closed position.  This when most people don’t even want to be that close to a spouse.  We have people telling us how to hold our head and look out, when all we can see is the spot on the wall that should have been repainted or touched up back when.  I invite you to offer your students and friends ways to practice and dance, not in the ballroom some are filming in but in the 10’ x 15’ space most people actually have available to use in their homes.  Many homes no longer have carpet, but for those that do, what can I do in my bare feet?

First and foremost, let’s remember what makes dancing fun.  It is not about posture and poise.  It is not even about footwork and foot position.  It is all about movement.  I used to tell students to let go a bit and dance with a little controlled but reckless abandon not because a judge might like it better but because it would feel better.  Yes, we all know that technique and position are important, but they are only important because they make it easier to move and provide needed balance and control to move even more.  Let the wind blow through your hair.

In some dances (smooth of course) the movement is going from one place to another and in for those dances the exercises or variations you offer for that limited available space may need to be creative.  Whether those exercises involve turns, curves or balance moves that may train the body to be ready when space is again available or define foot actions, pitch exercises and or lateral exercises for the strength in foot positions, for many of your homebound students practicing alone may be a first.  Give them ideas on ways to keep their balance, because we don’t want a “funniest home video” of falling through a glass table.  Hallways often offer a controlled environment to consider.  Each of these dances require a slightly different way to cross the floor and your job is to provide a 2 or 3 step exercise or circle exercise where people can feel the movement and memorize the feeling.  Remember the golf swing is not mastered on the course but in the small box of the driving range.  Of course, depending upon the age, physical conditions and demeanors of your clients, these exercises need to be specific and from you in a language with terms your students are already familiar with.  If you normally speak of body versus torso, don’t change because you are now on camera.

Rhythm dances likely offer easier options.  Just like in group classes you can have a whole class developing their following skills by watching one leader in a predetermined amalgamation of patterns.  This they can easily do in a small place, and you can be just as excited as that “Peleton” instructor who also isn’t going anywhere fast.  They can follow the direction, arms and even turns from their computer.  Attention spans at home won’t be as long as in studio since the real world gets in the way.  Look for ways to build the amalgamation so it is fun and engaging.  Add facts and history along with folklore to keep it interesting.  The goal again is to get them moving, having fun and remembering why they come to your studio in the first place.  Spend more time being real than professional, but still look professional and like someone who they want to follow.

This may also be a good time to provide exercises that work on the technique of each action, whether a triple movement and how it may vary between dances or timing.  It could also be a good time to practice characteristic actions while doing steps slowly to speeding up including, Cuban motion, the Samba action, the swing chasse action or the difference in pitches between Rumba walks and Fox Trot steps

Whether you are doing smooth or rhythm, think of the things they can improve on while with you on video.  I already told you that they don’t practice at home.  They didn’t before and likely told you that is why they came to the studio.  They like personal attention.  Which reminds me, when producing a live stream or Facebook or You Tube video, use pronouns, not names.  If you use one person’s name and not another it may breed envy or even resentment.  Names are for private lessons or chats, not group communication when all people should feel connected.

Some people are offering line dances, and I am waiting for someone to come up with a Carona line dance, where we can join in on video and do something new and fun together that we can still share again when we have our partners in our arms.  If you have one or make one share it and let us know.  If you have a song suggestion, share that too.  Find me on Facebook.

As the sign below on one of my walls at home shows…

Make your time at home fun and help others too as you join in with your school of friends and practice virtually while staying safe and developing skills you will use again soon.


Michael S Reichenbach

Published Vol XXXXIII No. 18

May 8, 2020

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