Keeping children dancing through lockdown
Since the start of this strangest time in my parenting life, I have been deeply impressed by the way children’s activity providers pivoted so quickly to bring their classes to children’s home via Zoom and similar technology.
When this surreal idea of self-isolation and lockdown started looking like becoming a reality, I never imagined that my daughter’s dance classes would continue. She has been doing classes with SA Dance for several years, starting with tap dancing, at age 6, she then moved on to contemporary dance. This style of dance really suits her personality and she loves the freedom of expression it gives. This is the great thing about SA Dance – so many different types of dance classes, all ‘under one roof’. Thanks to this quick thinking Ealing dance company, children and adults have been able to continue their dance training during lockdown thanks to the quick thinking and reaction of the SA Dance Founder and Artistic Director, Aretha Marques.
Brazilian born, Aretha is a passionate dance teacher, who graduated in 1999 from Rose Ballet School’s Dance College in Brazil. In 2003 she moved to America where she worked at Walt Disney World and at American Hospitality Academy, during this time she also studied at Steps on Broadway, Broadway Dance Centre and at Alvin Ailey in New York. In 2004, she moved to the UK to pursue her dream to choreograph and direct dance shows. I did some marketing and social media consultancy work with Aretha last year and can 100% say from personal experience that she’s ambitious and professional, but warm, caring and business savvy – a wonderful combination to head up a leading West London dance school.
SA Dance is a superb dance school with talented and dedicated professionally trained dance teachers. In non-lockdown times the classes take place in the outstanding School of Dance facilities of the University of West London. Each summer the children of all ages – and adults from all of the SA Dance classes and disciplines, usually perform an incredible show.
The West London dance school covers a wide range of opportunities of dance genres; and caters to all sorts of dancers from little ones trying it out for the first time, those who have ambitions of dancing professionally to adults returning to dance after a long break. Dancers can start from as young as age 2 years and the philosophy of SA Dance is very much that dance is a joy to be experienced by people of all ages. Based in Ealing, SA Dance offers classes in Ballet, Contemporary, Modern Jazz and Tap. The aim of each class is to learn the perfect balance between correct technique and communication.
What has particularly impressed me about the SA Dance virtual dance classes, is the way the teachers have managed to motivate the children and keep their passion for dancing alive during such strange circumstances. They are paid classes (and worth every penny that I paid!) but Aretha always gives that bit extra and we’ve had special workshops added in as surprises here and there. My daughter loved the 80s Dance Party. There has also been a gift of Pilates on Mothers Day, plus bonus Mobility and Flexibility classes for dancers, Easter Ballet Workshop, The Coppelia repertoire workshop, Yoga to de-stress (2 weeks for free!), today there were several extra special classes to celebrate International Dance Day.
Dancers are learning about dance history, some classes have been completely adapted to enhance their artistic learning. A contemporary group is learning the different techniques from the pioneers of contemporary dance, jazz dancers were impressed to learn the moves from Bob Fosse and ballet dancers learnt that only men could dance ballet when it was created. I did not know that either!
You don’t have to wait for things to ‘return’ to normal to let you child continue or even start dance lessons. Having witnessed my daughter’s classes since late March now, I’ve been amazed at the quality of the Zoom classes. The children get to see each other a bit on screen and can watch their teacher and it’s a wonderful, interactive experience for them during this child. I for one am really pleased that my daughter has this outlet during these strange isolated days. I feel that her love of dancing is one thing at least that this virus hasn’t managed to curtail. I think it can be hard to visual how a class like this can work if you haven’t tried an interactive Zoom class until you’ve tried one so it’s definitely worth trialing one so you can see the difference between a (well-run) virtual live class and the passive nature of watching similar classes as a pre-recorded video which children are much less likely to engage with fully.
I am very grateful and impressed with Aretha and her team of dance teachers for providing these slick dance classes online; to help children retain some sort of normality and keep mobile during this time. Not to be confused with the overwhelming amount of Facebook Live and pre-recorded dance classes suddenly available, SA Dance online classes are facilitated via an interactive platform so that dancers can interact with their teachers and peers. Teachers have adapted the studio class brilliantly for the online environment. With the live and interactive platform, the teachers are able to see the dancers go through their movements and make individual corrections to help their progression. So yes it is on a screen, but very different to passively watching a video on YouTube.
These classes are not only keeping children more active at a time when it can be tricky to do so, but I have seen with my own daughter what an immense benefit they bring to maintaining a positive mental health too. It also helps her retain a sense of community during isolation and it has been great for her confidence in front of a camera. Dance is a fantastic emotional outlet and could be perfect for a child who is feeling anxious or stressed about things.