Orange Coast College’s dance program has found creative ways to engage students during the COVID-19 quarantine while still implementing the objectives they set in the beginning of the year.

Rachel Berman, chair of the Dance department, teaches multiple classes ranging from ballet and modern to Polynesian and dance appreciation. Berman said teaching through Zoom, an online video chat website, forces her to adjust her teaching abilities.

“I have to use more of my words and dance vocabulary while teaching as opposed to saying ‘watch what I’m doing,’” Berman said.

OCC’s ballet, jazz and Latin dance professor Jose Costas said by recording himself before the class and then playing it when the class meets, he can focus more on giving his students verbal corrections.

“Since I am not in the studio with them, where I used to physically place them in the correct positions, more verbal cues help them to better understand how to correct their bodies,” Costas said.

Berman said she also found a fun and entertaining way to play music differently during her classes. She teaches her online classes with live music thanks to her husband, a skilled musician who plays multiple string instruments like the guitar and the violin.

“I am very lucky,” Berman said. “While I teach my classes, my husband will play his guitar and I’ll be dancing in our living room while the sun is shining.”

However, teaching classes through Zoom does come with it’s challenges.

Amelie Hunter, a dance appreciation, ballet and Pilates instructor, said at times Zoom creates technical problems.

“I love Zoom, but have had some problems with students trying the link that works for most and still not being able to easily access the meeting,” Hunter said. “Also, sometimes people freeze or have other computer problems.”

Hunter said she even had to get ethernet for her backyard studio so it had reception while she teaches her Pilates class.

Costas said his students were worried about how the classes would be taught online.

“They were all concerned at the beginning whether the class could be taught remotely, but they find my teaching to be as demanding and engaging as I was in the studio,” Costas said. “That is something I had to practice to make sure my energy and passion is felt across the computer screen.”

Berman said dance isn’t made to learn online, but rather in a group setting. She said dancers need the energy of others to feed off of. Just like a performer needs an audience, dancers need the enthusiasm from others.

Costas said he noticed that during his online classes some students have a hard time focusing on the task at hand. He said since they need a large space to dance in, most of the students will be in their living rooms or kitchens. Since these are common places in a household, many siblings or parents walk in and distract the dancers.

However, Costas found a solution to the problem by keeping students occupied in the course and by asking them to give peer feedback.

“I pretty much keep the class dancing together the entire time giving very little time for the dancer to pay attention to the distraction,” Costas said. “I also give them a limited time to come up with some steps to add to our jazz combinations and to show me and the others in class.”

Students enrolled in the Student Dance Concert performance class will earn credit by choreographing and videotaping their performances and ultimately using them in an online production.

Hunter said the students will choreograph pieces in their own homes and coordinate with the other students that would dance before and after their parts to create a video performance.

“Many of our students who were hoping to perform on stage will now be making a dance video together while apart to share with the OCC community,” Hunter said.

Some students who were enrolled in the World Dance Concert class are now in independent study with Berman to fulfill their performance credits at the end of the year.

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