Teaching online dance classes tips
The current period of lockdown has seen the dance teaching sector respond with its usual energy, creativity and resilience by developing a wealth of online dance classes, delivered via a range of platforms including social media and Zoom. This opens up the exciting possibility of reaching people from all around the world with our classes, as well as engaging people who previously may been too nervous to attend class. During these challenging times, movement and physical activity are perhaps more important than ever to support good physical and mental wellbeing. As with delivering face-to-face classes, however, it is vital that we take every step to protect both ourselves as teachers and our class participants.
Health and safety
Before offering any online classes you must check with your insurance provider that your policy covers you for teaching online. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place and whether you are covered for both live classes and for pre-recorded sessions which participants may take part in at their leisure without you ‘observing’ them.
Ensure you plan an appropriate class structure, including a suitable warm up and cool down. Take time to provide a clear introduction to the class and explain what will be involved, including the level of challenge involved and who the class is suitable for. Provide opportunity for participants to make you aware of any injuries or illnesses and consider how you will adapt material accordingly.
Advise participants about how much space they will need to participate safely. Be aware that some participants will have less space than you, so consider ways of adapting material, for example “if you can’t circle your arm then use your shoulder”. Remind participants of the need for them to make sure their environment is suitable.
Ensure you are modelling safe practice to your class participants through how you dress, your demonstration of movements and your room layout.
Further health and safety information and guidance:
Our friends at Safe in Dance International and People Dancing have provided some detailed guidance on safely delivering and participating in online dance classes:
Safeguarding should remain as important as ever in the online teaching environment. Those delivering online classes should take time to familiarise themselves with the added potential risks of working in this way and take every step to mitigate them.
When delivering classes on behalf of a school, company or other organisation, you must familiarise yourself with their policy and guidelines on the delivery of online lessons. Ensure you are always working within their protocols and using approved ICT systems and accounts.
When delivering your own classes on a freelance basis you should set out a clear policy on how and when you will communicate with students and parents. Ensure you use a professional account that it used only for teaching purposes.
Consider the environment you are delivering your classes in. Aim to use as neutral a space as possible, avoiding revealing personal details such as personal photos or anything that reveals your address. Bedrooms and bathrooms are not appropriate spaces!
One-to-one sessions raise some specific safeguarding issues, particularly if being delivered to children and young people. If these cannot be avoided then additional safeguarding measures should be in place to protect you as well as your participants. It would be wise to only deliver one-to-one classes to students when a parent/guardian is visible in the room.
Further safeguarding information and guidance:
Our friends at ISM have created some excellent guidance aimed at music teachers, much of which can be considered for dance teaching too: https://www.ism.org/advice/safeguarding-for-remote-lessons
The London Grid for Learning have produced 20 considerations for safe online streaming: https://static.lgfl.net/LgflNet/downloads/digisafe/Safe-Lessons-by-Video-and-Livestream.pdf
As so many individuals and organisations move quickly to offer online activity it is vital to maintain a professional persona in a crowded and busy market – both in the marketing and promotion of classes and in your class content itself. To promote your own classes, ensure you are using a professional social media account or website and provide participants with information about your background, qualifications and experience. Always present yourself as professionally as you would if you were giving a face to face class. You need to observe your usual high standards. It can be easy to become too informal when in your own home!
Make sure you have a good camera, or smart phone, and a tripod and ensure that the room is not too dark or that you don’t have a source of light coming behind you, throwing you into silhouette. Check your music levels to make sure your voice and instructions can be heard clearly. It sounds obvious but ensure that your whole body can be seen clearly when you are demonstrating – some people may only have access to a tablet or smart phone to watch you so you will be very small to them! Avoid disturbances by family members, housemates (or pets!) and make sure that phones are set to silent.
Always do a test before hand with some willing friends. You can also test your wifi speed via Speed test before hand to check your connection will be fast enough.
At the time of writing, there is no clear indication of a definite timeframe for the current ‘lockdown’ status to continue. When planning your online class schedule and content, consider how you will sustain the quality and quantity of delivery over a period of weeks or months. This is a challenging time for everyone and burning yourself out professionally is not in your best interests!
Although this first few weeks of this strange new way of living has seen a high demand for online classes and exercise programmes, it is likely that – just like each new year! – there will inevitably be a ‘drop off’. Even some of the high-profile celebrity workouts that had everyone very excited in week 1 had many less live viewers during weeks 2 and 3! How will you continue to engage your participants to keep attending? How will you keep your ideas and content fresh?
At this extremely challenging time, your long term financial and professional sustainability must of course be considered. Are you charging a fee for your classes or content? Some teachers and organisations are moving to a monthly subscription system to allow them to forward plan rather than offering a pay-as-you-go system.
Are you offering classes and content free of charge? It has been amazing to see the number of individuals and organisations offering free classes, resources and materials to support others during this pandemic. Your own circumstances will dictate what is possible (and we would never want to discourage the incredible support for others we are witnessing right now) but do remember the value of your work! Consider how you will return to charging for content and material if so much of your work and creativity is now in the public domain free of charge.
LGFL Digisafe. (2020) Twenty Safeguarding Considerations for Lesson Livestreaming
Kusner, E. (2020). Dance Teacher. What We Learned in the First Week of Teaching Online: University Dance Professors Respond
Randell, J. (2020) Dance Teacher. Taking Your Technique Class Online: 5 Questions for Teaching Artist Kristin Damrow
Redmond, A. (2020) Arts Professional. Covid-19: Connecting online during social distancing
Safe in Dance International (2020) Guidance on delivering and participating in dance classes online
Worth, D. (2020) TES. School Closures: A guide to help you cope