We are accustomed to a world that is constantly revolving, but for most of us this pandemic is making life spin faster than we’ve ever experienced before. We are making adjustments to how we work, how we shop, how we visit our loved ones.
And how we take ballet class.
The definition of “dance studio” has broadened. What we used to envision as a space with marley floors, wooden ballet barres, and upright pianos now includes carpeted livings rooms, kitchen counters, and laptops.
Online ballet class is currently more the norm than the exception and this has caused many a change in the structure of a conventional class. We chat with Asiya Lukmanova, former soloist ballet dancer in the Saint-Petersburg Ballet Theatre and current director of Russian Masters Ballet, about her experience during this new state of things.
Before the COVID situation we never planned to do online classes or intensives; we like the traditional way of teaching, with contact and a live experience. But the moment we saw what a disaster the pandemic situation was creating for ballet students, we decided that we needed to support them.
After some research we decided to try Zoom. A big part of our teaching team was very skeptical. We spent two months creating a special methodical program that would be perfect. From April to June we gave a lot of free classes after which we felt very prepared to give technical support to our teachers and students, and our teachers were better prepared in the methodology. So during the Russian Masters and Vaganova Academy Online Intensives held this summer we got very satisfactory results, even better than we expected.
For the moment I think it’s too early to predict what the future will hold. We can see that online ballet courses can be very professional and beneficial, especially for the students who can’t travel due to multiple reasons such as schedule, money, and nowadays… restrictions. So for the next couple of years, we certainly would like to offer the option of professional extracurricular intensive training. In fact, we are now preparing for our official winter course, a Vaganova Academy Online Intensive that will start on December 27.
Training our teachers to use computers, cables, cameras, Zoom, etc. The faculty that works with us are the most experienced teachers of classical ballet in Russia; they work at the Vaganova Academy, Eifman Ballet Academy and the country’s biggest theatres. They know everything about ballet, but they weren’t prepared for digital training. We provided managers and translators for each teacher and created a really comfortable space for them, so finally we all got it!
We offer for each student personal technical support and help them to prepare their dance space. For the most part, students already have a ballet barre and vinyl flooring, so there is no problem for pointe shoes. But jumps are limited, of course.
To not lose personal contact between the students and teacher, we make the groups even more limited than in our live programs. So each class only has seven to ten students. One very nice thing is that translation works even better in online ballet classes than in person, so students understand all the corrections very well. Also, our teachers are working much more energetically to connect with students in order to catch – and keep! – their full attention. We care about our teachers and have reduced their teaching hours so that they can be always fresh!
Depends on the grade. For the smallest students it is possible to do almost everything in a small space. For intermediate and advanced grades we need to adapt and pay attention to what they can do at home. The methodology of the Vaganova System is the same, but we need to reduce our attention to jumps and add special classes for physical conditioning in order to keep all of their muscles in shape. This summer, for those who had access to studios we could offer a full class with jumps and the results were excellent!
I hope and trust that we will not lose the most important essence of what it is to be a dancer – stage performance. It’s good to not waste time and at least work online for some time or periodically, but stage practice is a very important part of training, and from a very early age.
That it’s so important to be flexible and helpful.