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The Royal Dance Academy, which includes student Kalliyan Johnson, recently reopened its Suwanee studios after utilizing innovative teaching programs on Zoom and health protocols from a CDC consultant during sheltering in place orders.

The sheltering in place orders brought on by COVID-19 hit the dance education world especially hard. How does a dance school continue to teach, inspire, and hold the interest of students when young dancers can’t come to class?

Suwanee’s Royal Dance Academy students have been keeping up with their classes through Zoom, which is being utilized throughout the dance world and beyond for all types of educational and meeting purposes.

RDA’s Director Sarah Haslock said, “We created a consolidated schedule where suitable. We used Zoom initially from our homes, and then we implemented our adjusted schedule live in the studio when we reopened two weeks ago.”

The new way of learning dance was more challenging for the younger ones, so Haslock and her staff tried to make it a bit more interactive.

“For the younger ones, we included things like story time which I think they really enjoyed,” she said.

For older students, the results of using remote teaching provided surprising and rewarding results. And, the students who normally worked very hard in class seemed to work just as hard at home.

New programs were developed.

“We implemented a ‘strong feet’ class to take the place of our pre-pointe class,” Haslock said. “This was great as it encouraged all students from different levels to take part.”

Haslock also added dance history and special projects.

“With my younger students I took the opportunity to share with them, through various resources, learning about the different 19th century ballets,” she said. “The Royal Opera House in London had a fabulous concept for children called ‘Create and Learn.’ We implemented some of their ideas. A huge hit with our younger children was being able to create an invitation for ‘Cinderella’s Ball.’”

The Royal Opera House is a familiar place for Haslock. She graduated from the renowned Royal Academy of Dance in London and holds many distinguished teaching credentials. Her unique qualifications allow her the authority to teach the coveted RAD education syllabi.

Reopening the studios was a task that required much thought and planning, she said.

“We were lucky to have a resource person who does outsourcing work for the CDC,” Haslock said. “She did online training for all of our faculty on behavioral procedures and sanitization of the studios. From this we created a document of protocols for both students, families, and faculty. Each family had to sign this document upon returning to the studio.”

Students who do not feel quite ready to come back yet are still enjoying the Zoom teaching experience from home.

“I think this situation has greatly affected the arts as a whole,” Haslock said. “The effects on dance studios had an immediate impact. Uncertainty surrounding a return to normal public schools creates uncertainty about fully resuming dance classes as we know them.”

Haslock urges young dancers to continue working at home.

“Continue to strengthen your feet, stretch and work on core exercises,” she said. “And, major ballet companies are offering opportunities to view past performances. I would take full advantage of that!”

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Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@ mindspring.com.

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