STEEZY's web player has options for tempo and viewpoint. Photo by Sam Caudle, courtesy STEEZY

Should You Be Taking Online Dance Classes?

Dance technology has come a long way from ballet variations painstakingly learned by watching fuzzy VHS tapes. Over the last few years, a dizzying number of online training programs have cropped up, offering the chance to take class in contemporary, jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop and even ballroom from the comfort of your own living room or studio.


The Magic of Tech for Dance

Using an online dance training service has unique advantages:

  • Take class whenever, wherever. "With the rigors of performance and rehearsal schedules, pros often don't have time to attend class," says Caitlin Trainor, founder of Dancio, a ballet-focused online training platform. Do a ballet barre in your kitchen, warm up backstage before a performance or screen a master class in your studio.
  • Access to the best teachers. You don't need to travel to New York or Los Angeles to take class from your favorite teacher. Take ballet from Julie Kent with Dancio, contemporary from Kathryn McCormick via CLI Studios or tap from Anthony Morigerato with Operation: Tap.
  • The ability to self-pace. The beauty of video, says Learntodance.com founder Leon Turetsky, is that "you can pause, rewind, fast-forward and watch it as many times as you like to get it into your muscle memory." Many classes are filmed from multiple viewpoints and offer the chance to switch seamlessly from one to the next, with options to change the speed or loop the video.
  • A cornucopia of dance styles. Online programs offer access to every genre imaginable. Try a new style, brush up on a technique you haven't practiced in a while, glean some inspiration, test out pedagogical strategies or just be an absolute beginner in the privacy of your own home.

Pick the Platform That's Best for You

"Think about what your objectives are," says Trainor. "Do you want to try something new? Improve your skill level? Warm up, or simply find pleasure in moving?" Take a hard look at instructors' qualifications and artistry, too. "Don't just look for people with a lot of Instagram followers," says STEEZY co-founder Connor Lim.

Or maybe you're looking for a community more than a video archive. "The culture of tap dance is very communal," says Ayodele Casel, who co-founded Operation: Tap. "A lot of our younger users have really engaged with OPTAP, and that starts them engaging with each other."

The Key Word Is "Supplemental"

Julie Kent teaching a Dancio class. Photo courtesy Dancio

"Nothing will ever replace the chemistry and magic of the live class experience," says Trainor. As Lim points out, tactile instruction and live feedback are essential learning tools. Beginners in particular may not know if they're executing a step correctly or not. Online dance platforms are best used as a supplemental training tool: for a warm-up, during a break or when getting yourself to a live class just isn't feasible.

But don't underestimate the very real power of video, urges Casel. "I wanted to tap dance because I saw Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on film," she says. "It never takes the place of in-person training, but it's an incredible source of inspiration."

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Though what she's listening to at any given time can vary dramatically, the through-line for Brandt is nostalgia: songs that take her back, whether to childhood, a favorite movie or a piece she's recently performed. Brandt told us about her eclectic taste, and made us a playlist that will keep you guessing:

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NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Dance Magazine Chairman's Award Honoree: Linda Shelton

In an industry that has been clamoring for more female leadership, Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater Foundation since 1993, has been setting an example for decades. As a former general manager of The Joffrey Ballet, U.S. tour manager for the Bolshoi Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts panelist, Dance/NYC board member and Benois de la Danse judge, as well as a current Dance/USA board member, Shelton has served as a global leader in dance. In her tenure at The Joyce, she has not only increased the venue's commissioned programming, but also started presenting beyond The Joyce's walls in locations such as Lincoln Center.

What brought you to The Joyce?

That was many years ago, but it's still the same today: It's a belief in and passion for the mission of the theater, which is to support dance in all of its forms and varieties—every kind of dance that you could imagine.

Diversity is so important in dance leadership today. How do you approach this at The Joyce?

Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

Is drawing in new audiences and maintaining longtime supporters ever in conflict?

Of course. I call it the blessing and the curse of our mission. We do present more experimental companies that may attract a younger audience. But it's very tricky. You're not going to tell your long-term audience, "Don't come and see this because you're not going to like the music." We've had people walk out of the theater before, but it's a response. It's important to spark those conversations.

What experimenting have you done?

We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

Do you have advice for other dance presenters?

Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

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