Looking on the bright side of life

Jane White: Course Leader – BA(Hons) Dance, Arts University Bournemouth

As the world pressed pause and people shut themselves away from each other in the Spring of 2020, those of us who work as educators had a moment of absolute panic as to how on earth it would be possible to keep students learning and connected if we were apart.

As a dance teacher, I knew that the subject I taught would have to hugely adapt to suit the world of Zoom, however, in the words of Billy Ocean, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Following gut instinct, myself and my team quickly equipped ourselves with the necessary skills and tips for slick online technique class delivery as well as reworking choreographic and performance projects to become digital galleries, films and teaching resources. Initially it was about successfully enabling our various year groups to achieve, but as we looked forward to the start of the new academic year of 2020/21, it was clear that the pandemic was still going to dictate much of our curriculum. We decided that the best way we could focus on the needs of the course and our students was to view the year as a creative brief, responding to the sector and the ‘real life’ situation we found ourselves in. It became clear we should not dwell on what we could not do, but focus on what we could.

I hope that when we reflect back on this current academic year in July 2021, there will have been unexpected high points, things achieved that we would never have considered possible and a new set of graduates being sent out with a deeper awareness of what an adaptable dance artist can do, in response to the real needs of communities.

But at the root of this is the ever adaptable and passionate dance teacher – the person who knows the value of connection and what crucial transferable skills come from moving together in a space. The sense of purpose and self-worth that comes from the airing of a creative idea and seeing it explored on one’s own and others’ bodies. The fact that however experienced we are, we still dance because we love it, because we believe humans are made to dance and that the repeating process of introducing a new group of students to a living, breathing dance curriculum never leaves us.

What has occurred during this year is that many people of all ages have kept dancing, albeit in their homes and gardens and not the studio, but they have kept dancing. The loyal teachers who have set up the copious Zoom invites, who have met parents and pets as well their charges, have done what they have done because they know how important the activity has been, both for their pupils and for themselves.

The world will reset and this will pass but I know that I for one will always value the chance to have had to learn afresh and re-think something I believed that years of teaching meant I knew inside out. The studio will never be something I or my team or my students will ever take for granted again. But the pandemic has reminded me how resourceful we all are and how important our place is, supporting our pupils and students in a shared love of dance and moving together. Together we are stronger, but 2020 has taught us that we can keep a strong sense of connection even if we are apart.

 

Jane White

Course Leader – BA(Hons) Dance

Arts University Bournemouth