Keeping others connected through dance

Date: 25 January 2021   Author: Energise Me

When England plunged into the first lockdown, back in March, thousands of people were worried for their jobs. This was true of the many freelance teachers and instructors who work in the physical activity sector, and in the arts. Luke Brown, a dancer and teacher from Hampshire, saw his income disappear almost overnight along with his creative and social outlet. Like many of us, Luke turned to online classes to stay active. But teaching online felt daunting.


Deciding to teach virtual dance classes

I knew that it would be important to continue my classes, somehow. They’re not only a place for young men to learn, train, and keep healthy physically and mentally. They’re also a safe place where young men can come together, be inspired by one another and find positive role models in each other.

It was really difficult – lots of the people who attend my classes were also out of work. I needed to offer classes for free. Thankfully, the Investing in Communities project was able to support me to do this.

The funding I received felt like “a safety net” and allowed me to approach the challenge more positively.

Overcoming difficulties

I also found teaching online to be very different! In real life, a standard class is ninety minutes, but online we have to stop at sixty. It means the class is short, snappy, and dancers aren’t left waiting for too long. I was secretly relieved when the dancers voted for sixty-minute sessions, as I didn’t want to do ninety minutes either!

And it wasn’t just the timing. It’s so much harder to come up with the material to teach online. I was seeing the same dancers consistently week after week rather than travelling around the country seeing different groups. It was challenging at first to come up with new routines and keep it fresh. The funding I received felt like “a safety net” and allowed me to approach the challenge more positively.

one of Luke's virtual dance classes on computer screen


Keeping others connected to the arts

I now teach two virtual dance classes per week online, seeing twenty dancers at each. I offer classes for a broad range of people. Some are specifically for young men, some are for beginners and some are for any professional dancer so that they can still feel connected to the arts. They have been able to find a sense of community in my lessons.

One dancer described it as “a saviour.” Some of the dancers live alone and felt very lonely. So I also offer “Coffee and Catch Up” sessions, setting aside time to chat with people on the phone. I even helped one dancer set up her new computer! Another dancer said that the sessions give her back a sense of self, “for that hour, I’m not mum, I’m me.”

I plan to keep an online offer in the future. I have learned how to do it well, and now I actually enjoy being able to reach different people this way.

Without funding, I could have fallen into a black hole. Having people believe in you – it was a lifeline. The arts is our job, but it’s also our identity. Without this, I might not have had the confidence to return to teaching.

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