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We get it; after over a year and a half of virtual dance training, you're ready to kiss Zoom goodbye forever.
But your dance training doesn't have to be completely virtual or completely in person. In fact, finding the sweet spot between in-studio and online training could be exactly what takes your dancing to the next level.
Here are five reasons online dance training should stay in your tool kit post-pandemic.
1. You Can Learn a New Style at Your Own Pace
In an online dance class, you can comfortably learn a new style at your own pace and in the privacy of your own home. The dance app STEEZY offers over 10 different styles of dance— from studio styles, like contemporary and ballet, to street styles, like heels and popping. So whether you are a ballet dancer who wants to learn hip-hop basics or a krumper who wants to try out contemporary, there's a STEEZY class (or two, or ten) for you.
Of course, learning a new genre is easier said than done. Brittany Cavaco, professional ballerina and STEEZY lead ballet instructor, knows that class can be intimidating, especially in an unfamiliar genre. This is where STEEZY comes in: "STEEZY instructors make their classes encouraging and positive, while also being realistic and honest," says Cavaco.
What's more, taking enough in-studio dance classes to see improvement can be expensive and time-consuming, but a STEEZY subscription allows dancers to take an unlimited amount of classes each year from anywhere. And when it comes to figuring out what level of class to take and when, STEEZY eliminates the guesswork.
STEEZY Content Lead Charise Roberts explains, "the basis of our programs is wrapped around giving dancers real structure, so they can start at square one, and get to the next level."
2. You Can Take Basic Classes to Brush Up on the Fundamentals
Even if you aren't an absolute beginner at a particular genre, online classes can strengthen your technical foundation. On the STEEZY app, instructors break down individual moves and grooves meticulously, so you can grasp every detail.
But dance knowledge doesn't stop at the technique itself. Learning the history and differences between dance genres is also paramount to becoming a well-rounded dancer. Dance teacher and STEEZY user, Jessica Holyfield, explains, "If you want to understand the difference between voguing and waacking, for example, they have a blog that goes in-depth on the historical and technical differences, as well as instructors who are currently a part of that said dance community who walk you through each technique!"
3. You Can Take Convenient Maintenance Classes When You’re Busy
Life as a performing artist is hectic. From balancing performing gigs to side hustles, most days you probably don't have time to travel to a physical studio, take a 90-minute class, and commute back home. But with STEEZY, fitting dance into your daily life doesn't have to be a struggle. They offer a range of different class lengths and even warm-up and strength-training videos, all built for smaller spaces.
"We have an onboarding quiz for new subscribers that takes in your dance goals, your preferences, how frequently you would like to dance and how long you'd like to dance. After that, we build a 'For You' page that schedules out your week for you," says Roberts.
For dancers performing on contracts, STEEZY offers a great solution: you can fit a quick ballet or choreography class in your day no matter where you are or how much time you have.
4. You Can Learn Teaching Tips From the Instructors
While we usually think of virtual classes as a way to improve our dance technique, they can also build our teaching skills. Virtual class instructors have the unique challenge of teaching to a camera, usually with no live students in front of them, prompting them to get creative with how they instruct.
For Holyfield, taking STEEZY classes has improved her teaching skill set: "My technical exposure to all the various styles they offer has allowed me to be a better demonstrator of technique within my classes for my visual learners. I'm also able to describe and correct movements in more ways than before, thanks to the examples of STEEZY's diversity of instructors within each style."
She continues, "Since I'm learning multiple ways of dancing in a class virtually, I'm able to apply that to my classes whenever they are forced to go on Zoom. Overall I've seen so much growth with my students, which may be a reflection of my growth as a teacher."
5. You Can Learn a Combo for Your Dance Reel
In this new era of virtual auditions, you either need to have a constantly updated reel, or be prepared to shoot a video submission at a moment's notice. And yet, it's nearly impossible to get a "reel-worthy" video in a drop-in class, not to mention the pressure to do so shifts your focus away from enjoying the class itself.
With STEEZY, you can learn a combination at home, zero in on the details, and record when you're ready and have the proper space. And if you're looking for some feedback, STEEZY's Facebook community of over 7,500 dancers are constantly posting videos and sharing friendly critiques. Roberts explains, "A lot of the time, the instructor, somebody who's directly on the STEEZY squad or a familiar face from our YouTube channel might jump in and give you your feedback...and gas you up as well."
STEEZY Classes Aren't Your Typical Zoom Class
Even for dancers who aren't keen on virtual classes, STEEZY's designed-for-dancers interface is a cut above other online dance options.
Cavaco describes, "There are a lot of different features—like choosing the viewing angle, changing the class speed, or looping certain sections—that make it a more interactive experience, so you feel like you're controlling the way that the class is taught to you." She adds, "I don't like taking virtual classes, but STEEZY is a whole different experience."
As a whole, Roberts expresses, "STEEZY is not just a pandemic solution, and not a replacement for in-person classes. But it's absolutely something that complements your overall training to make you a better, stronger dancer in the long run."
Level-up your dance training by getting started with STEEZY.
Catch Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes tonight on PBS at 9 pm (check local listings). The ballet is being presented as part of the channel's "Great Performances" series. Recorded at Sadler's Wells in January 2020, the production is an adaptation of the classic ballet film from 1948. This clip shows the scene when heroine Victoria Page, played by Ashley Shaw, auditions for impressario Boris Lermontov at a party.
An artistic residency sounds like a dream: You get concentrated time and space to work on your choreography, often with artists of other disciplines to serve as collaborators or encourage new modes of thinking, usually within an idyllic and distraction-free setting. It's no surprise, then, that the application process can be competitive and daunting.
Do Your Research
Rather than apply willy-nilly for any residency that comes across your inbox, do your due diligence first: Are you looking for a residency that's one week long, or three? Do you need room and board included? Will you pay a fee or receive a stipend?
A clear idea of why a particular residency makes sense for your work will strengthen your application. Amy Sinclair, residency manager at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois, suggests visiting residency sites when they offer public programming, as a way of familiarizing yourself with an organization, its location and its staff. "It's helpful for residency jurors to see that artists know what makes Ragdale unique," she says.
At Headlands Center for the Arts, for example, successful applicants often include a compelling reason why they want to make work in the Bay Area, says Holly Blake, residency manager. A realistic plan for what can happen at the residency site also demonstrates that the applicant has done their research.
"Occasionally, an artist might talk about wanting to invest heavily in the Silicon Valley during their residency, not realizing it's a hike from Headlands," she says. "We're in a national park, so there are limitations to what can happen outside, too."
Choreographer Kayla Farrish notes that some residency organizations value certain aesthetics or modes of working. "Some are interested in interdisciplinary work, some are very process-oriented, some are about live performance," says Farrish, who has received residencies at Chez Bushwick, Pepatián and the Petronio Residency Center, among others. "Be aware of what the organization's mission is. Ask yourself, 'Does this align with me?' "
When writing her (eventually successful) application for the Keshet Makers Space Experience residency, Farrish knew the organization's New Mexico location would be an important part. "They're in Albuquerque, near the White Sands National Monument, and that was an inspiration for my project," she says. "I knew I wanted to utilize New Mexico and this idea of a new frontier in my work."
Be Specific About Your Vision
Give as much clarity as possible: what stage of this project you're currently at; how this residency will help you accomplish your next goal; what creative risks you might be taking with this proposal. "What's the potential impact of this residency for your work?" asks Sinclair. "It helps to know what difference this opportunity will make."
Sinclair says a panel will also want to know if this project challenges you or your process in a new way. "If you're including another discipline in the work, for example, or if there's anything that's different from the way you typically work, that can be encouraging to learn," she says.
Give Yourself Ample Time—and Write Multiple Drafts
Farrish occasionally gives herself a fake deadline for a residency application, so that she's not rushing to make edits up until the last minute. She also uses her collaborators and mentors who are intimately familiar with her work as sounding boards and proofreaders.
"I've had several people read my applications, and I'll have them stay on the phone with me while we go through it," says Farrish. "I think a lot about content and the idea I have—I can really get into the big questions—but that doesn't necessarily say what this project will actually look like." Her application readers help her make sure her proposal clearly translates her ideas.
Let Your Work Samples Shine
Blake names the work sample as the most important part of the application process. "We need to see how people move," she says, "and I've seen dancers making the mistake of submitting stills in the past!"
When Farrish applied for Chez Bushwick's residency in 2017 with the idea of making a dance film, she had an earlier film to share as her work sample. "That's why Chez Bushwick chose me," she says. "They liked my writing and how I talked about my process, but they said experiencing my film work was captivating and connecting for them."
Ready to Start? Here's Where You Can Find Residencies
artistcommunities.org: Alliance of Artists Communities offers a residency directory, with search filters like discipline, application type and accessibility.
resartis.org: Res Artis: Worldwide Network of Arts Residencies is an international collection of arts-residency operators from more than 75 countries.
pineywoodatlas.com: Artists Carolina Porras and Alicia Toldi took a series of road trips across the U.S. to visit and catalogue emerging and unconventional artist residencies.
creative-capital.org: The nonprofit organization Creative Capital curates a monthly listing of artist opportunities, including residencies, with upcoming deadlines.
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