STEEZY's web player has options for tempo and viewpoint. Photo by Sam Caudle, courtesy STEEZY
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."
Frederic Franklin in Valerie Bettis' A Streetcar Named Desire (1952). Photo courtesy DM Archives
In the June 1974 issue of Dance Magazine, our cover subject was the endlessly charming Frederic Franklin, then 60 years old. After declaring at the age of 4 that he was "going to be in the theater," the Liverpool-born dancer spent a lifetime doing exactly that.