What’s Going On This Year at Franklin’s Dance Department?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person schools were shut down and online learning was implemented. Online learning is tough and difficult for most students since some people might not have access to technology or other school supplies. But what if you’re a dance student or educator? There would surely be even more struggles to overcome, such as lack of space to practice and dance, a lack of materials, and even camera anxiety. Even if there are advantages to taking dance virtually, the disadvantages outweigh them. 

Here are some of the disadvantages: 

Not having someone to correct you while practicing.

Since the teacher cannot physically be with their students, it is difficult to precisely check their form. This makes it quite hard to get more accurate feedback.

Not meeting and interacting with people who have the same interests and passions as you have. 

Meeting people who you can sympathize with and relate to helps boost and inspire dancers. But since it’s online, it is harder to create a sense of community in the dance department. 

Lack of dance equipment and space.

From dancing in a large and spacious dance studio to dancing in a narrow space in your room or living room. From using a sturdy barre for ballet to using a questionably strong chair. From using cool tap shoes to using street shoes or socks, or even no footwear at all. 

These are just some of the challenges that both students and teachers face during this strange experience of online learning.

Compared to other classes, it’s more difficult to find an effective and flexible approach to teaching and learning dance. But with the virus still not being contained, it will probably remain like this longer than what we initially expected. This weird learning setup will only be successful with the students’ perseverance and determination to learn. Nevertheless, this current learning situation is still the best choice amidst this pandemic. Risking the teachers’ and students’ lives should not be part of the option.  

While some students have found ways to improvise dance lessons at home, a student like me who started dance at Franklin this school year finds it overwhelming. Not having enough space in my room to dance and not getting to experience in-person instructions were just some of my struggles. It’s just a matter of time for students like me to adapt to these circumstances. 

“Oh for goodness sake! It’s so challenging, right?” Sonia Kellerman, Franklin’s dance teacher, expressed when asked about how she’s feeling about online learning. “I think my students struggle with feelings of anxiety around their personal space. We all want to honor each other’s privacy,” she added. She stated that she and some students don’t have a personal space to practice which makes it difficult. She also added that she was even teaching tap dance on a carpeted floor. 

This pandemic makes it impossible for dancers to showcase their hard work on stage. Consider the following example: last year’s Arts Alive was cancelled a few weeks prior to the opening. Despair and disappointment ensued upon the dancers as they put the program on hold. It was especially sad for the seniors who were about to perform their last performances and experience their final Arts Alive at Franklin.

When asked about the most disappointing thing about the cancelation, Ms. Sonia answered, “I think the most disappointing thing is that my seniors didn’t have that experience, it’s something they were looking forward to for a long time.” 

“I was heartbroken when I heard that Arts Alive was going to be cancelled for 2020 because it felt like the culmination of my years in the dance program,” Brennan McConnell-Griner, a 2020 Franklin graduate, said. “I was most looking forward to feeling a sense of accomplishment and sentimentality that comes with a final performance. Leaving school one day and not knowing it was going to be my last day in person didn’t allow me to have the closure I thought I would get at the end of senior year.”

In addition to that, Ms. Sonia also gave a quick glimpse into what was supposed to happen during last year’s Arts Alive. Every single dance student in the department was going to participate in a dance piece conveying global climate change and the displacement of the indigenous people. Not being able to perform this must have been regrettable for them.

Hopefully this year’s dance productions won’t face an unfortunate fate like Arts Alive 2020. But, given the circumstances right now, it looks like the Winter Dance Showcase and Arts Alive are still a blur and their futures are still unknown. Nevertheless, not performing on stage, learning through the screen, and having online feedback won’t hinder students from showing their prowess and skills. You don’t know what they might have up their sleeves. So tune in and keep an eye out for their future plans! *wink*

Maia Kleinberg (11) ecstatically smiling next to her new personal barre. A barre is a piece of  equipment used as a hand railing that supports dancers while doing ballet exercises. Photo Via Maia Kleinburg.

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