Shuswap Dance Center has adapted to COVID-19 self-isolation by setting up a full slate of classes on the Zoom app, where the instructor in the studio can see the students on a 50-inch screen while the students can see the instructor from home. (Contributed)

Technology brings joy of dance back to Salmon Arm centre during pandemic

A full range of dance classes to be held with students a very safe distance from each other

It took a week to get the bugs out, but those bugs have now morphed into butterflies.

After a week of trial and error setting up virtual dance classes, Shuswap Dance Center and the tele-conferencing technology are in synch, making the most of COVID-19 self-isolation.

Beginning April 6, the centre will be offering a full schedule of dance classes, running about 10 hours of dance every day – all virtual.

Thanks to the Zoom app and a couple of 50-inch screens in the studio, the instructors can see a whole screen of dancers dancing together, while the students can see their instructors via their computer or cell phone and receive guidance from them.

Carolyn Wonacott, owner of Shuswap Dance Center, said to begin with, she and the instructors were depressed about the dance situation. But then came the successful set-up of a virtual class.

“The first class I did, reaching out to other people, dancing with other people, it was so uplifting and empowering. I walked away and I was totally in a different emotional state, I was so positive and uplifted. I thought if every single one of us could do this… It just puts everything in a more positive light. And I think it gives you the ability to look forward and not get caught up in where we are right now sitting around in our house.”

It seems the students agree. One hundred and seventy-three of her 175 students have signed up for the virtual classes.

She said if a student can’t attend their virtual class, the classes are being recorded so they can watch them later at their leisure. They just won’t have the instructor’s individual attention.

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Wonacott has already held classes for the older students every day for at least a week, two to three classes a day.

“They’ve all showed up, every single class,” she said. “I’ve had such positive feedback. The kids are super excited to be involved in the classes.”

She said the connections and interactions via the technology are good.

“We have a good picture of them, we can see them dancing, we can give corrections, we can work on choreography, we can see if they’re going the right way, if they’re doing the correct steps, all that kind of thing.”

She’s also pleased with the interest from younger students. At the time of the interview, a class of 12 three- and four-year-olds was underway.

The centre has room for more students because studio space is not an issue. Students just need a spot to dance at home.

“We limit what we’re doing to the confines of what the kids have. We’re not doing big jumps and leaps and that kind of thing…,” Wonacott said.

Students will be taught choreography for the centre’s May, maybe June, performance, in hopes dance will return to its former self.

Meanwhile, the centre’s goal remains.

“We are hoping to bring joy and encouragement in these uncertain times.”

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