by Rachel Minnie
Now more than ever parents need to invest in keeping their kiddos moving! With fewer in-person dance options, parents are finding many online platforms for their little dancers to have a reason to throw on their favorite leotards and dance skirts. Below are some of the most promising sites we’ve discovered so far:
Outschool is a well rounded learning platform that connects teachers and other professionals with students and parents. Anyone can sign up to be a teacher (so if you have an area of expertise or a hidden talent, consider offering your own class). In fact, there are so many classes available - especially now - that it can be a little overwhelming. Be sure to read reviews for teachers to help you make informed choices.
Class prices range from pretty reasonable to downright cheap. Choose from one-time classes, ongoing classes, seasonal summer camps, and long-term classes. Outschool classes are a staple in my house, and one thing that has impressed me is that they tend to be very interactive, not just between teachers and students, but between students and students. In this way, Outschool classes on Zoom can be a great alternative to in-person camps and classes that students may be missing during social distancing.
Available in either drop-in classes or session-based camps, dance classes on kidpass.com include ballet, rhythmic gymnastics, hip hop, tap, and more. While some classes are pre-recorded, others are live. The Kidpass platform allows you to easily schedule and keep track of multiple classes, perfect if you’re looking for lots of classes with different topics or if you have children of different ages.
And kidpass.com offers much more than just dance. You can also use it for academics, crafts, coding, foreign languages, etc. The Kidpass Digital Platform also uses Zoom. While some of the classes are pricey, you can find free classes that help even out the budget.
On sawyer.com, parents can find another platform for kids dance activities, as well as academic subjects and other fitness classes, like yoga and karate, offered by multiple providers. Available as drop-in classes, semesters, or seasonal summer camps, Sawyer’s classes can be booked for in-person classes (depending on your area), but there are more online programs than ever before as families look for ways to stay active and engaged remotely.
Search by day, time, age, or activity to find the perfect class for your dancer (or scientist, or linguist, or artist, or chef). Sawyer.com is also a Zoom-based platform. Overall, you can find many classes that are a good value for the money, some of which are only $5 a class. Gotta love that! (Bonus: Sawyer is a female-founded company.)
There are plenty of free videos and tutorials online from reputable companies like Kidz Bop and Go Noodle. Kids will love the wholesome songs and dance moves in both, but Go Noodle also has popular characters from Disney and Nickelodeon. Though these are highly flexible since there are no regular times - just pop on a video anytime - they are highly commercialized. Additionally, parents may have some reluctance to send their kids to YouTube. Just make sure to beef up your parental controls if that is a worry for you.
A nationwide kids dance studio franchise, Tippi Toes now offers online virtual classes with their instructors. For one new recorded class a week, you’ll pay just $19.99 a month, with a seven-day free trial. You get to keep all the recorded lessons for continued watching. Tippi Toes promises high energy and engaging dance content for kids 2-8 years old. While the classes are not live, that may be a benefit for some since it adds to its flexibility and convenience.
By Lydia Perakis
My name is Lydia Perakis and I live in Brooklyn, New York. Before the pandemic, I was working as a dance performer, choreographer, and educator in various studios and spaces around New York. I have been teaching virtually since April. My experience with online teaching started due to the pandemic; however, it has been an eye-opener to the endless possibilities and importance of utilizing technology in dance education.
Online teaching expands dance access. Because of the virtual classes, I have been able to reach students across the world I wouldn't normally, as well as have access to a broader span of ages. People seem more eager to experiment and try new skills while at home; there are students taking virtual dance classes who wouldn’t have necessarily prior to the pandemic. They tend to feel more comfortable in their own space rather than facing the intimidation of a studio full of strangers. In addition, virtual classes are more convenient to parents since there is no commute time, which benefits families as a whole.
Because the classes on Outschool [the online teaching platform] are automatically recorded and posted in the online classroom, students are able to “re-take” the class. That way, students who may have felt challenged learning all the material I demonstrated live in class, are able to spend more time with it on their own, something they wouldn't have been able to do in an in-person class.
Visualization and clear instructions are crucial when the instructor is not in the same space with the student. Your voice becomes your main tool, especially if the student is watching through a small screen. If the tool is properly utilized and the student is eager to learn, explore, and trust the educator through the screen, online learning can be equally as beneficial as in-person.
A few downsides of online learning I have observed are technical difficulties that can delay or interrupt the flow of class as well as general access to technology. Not all families can afford the expenses of online learning, which needs to be acknowledged and taken into account when talking about the communities we're accessing around the globe.
Another downside I have observed would be that some students get more easily distracted. They don’t necessarily associate being home with being “in class.” However, I have been experimenting with different approaches to engage the learners and establish an official class setting even through the virtual space.
Lastly, students having adequate space at home, as well as proper flooring (especially if we are practicing jumps) can be a challenge. I have appropriately adjusted all the classes I teach to fit into different space capacities, so this is usually a setback we find ways to work around.
I can't say that one can replace the other since we are comparing two very different educational spaces, but there is equal value to both online and in-person classes. Dance is an art form that heavily relies on community and human connection, and that can be challenging if we try to replicate the same in-person model when teaching online. It does not necessarily have to be the same. The class structure and format can shift in order to be transported through the two-dimensional space.
Both educational spaces have a lot to offer if explored and approached with an open mind. We need to be willing to fail, rebuild, reshape, and adjust in order to move dance education forward during this global pause. But there definitely is a way. The community and eagerness to move I have experienced in my classes these past two months have been enormous and so fulfilling, and that strength makes me hopeful about the resilience of our art form.
Photo by Travis Magee