COVID-19: Training in Captivity

I didn’t think I’d write on this blog again, certainly not under these circumstances. First and foremost I want to wish all of you safety, security, and hope. Secondly I’m going to offer a little advice for the aspiring dancers out there trying to make sense of training at home at this difficult time.

A lot of free-to-watch and pay-to-watch classes have popped up during this time, particularly in the past week. Everyone from your local dance studio to the most acclaimed professional dancer seems to be offering something right now, while they also try to maintain their own technique and connection to the dance community. The options have become nearly overwhelming and that’s an amazing thing. But I’d like to offer a little note of caution to all of you trying your best to take advantage of this training time: Choose wisely.

Maybe that’s obvious to some of you, but even if you are thinking right now, “I found access to a professional dancer! This is everything I’ve dreamed of,” you might be surprised to hear me say that it’s really, really not that simple. The reason is this: professional dancers work their barre in very unique ways for their bodies and what they need – which is often dramatically different than what a student needs. A perfect example is that unbelievable talent Tamara Rojo.

I’m a huge a fan of Ms. Rojo – her work is a credit to the industry and no one should deny her talent, artistry, and technical ability. But if you watch any of her classes, you will see a myriad of significant technical problems that are easy to start mimicking if you are following along. These are not actually errors – only for Ms. Rojo! They reflect her professional level of working through her body and her style of work specifically. This barre can be great for a professional who does not need someone to observe and learn from. But if you are a student, I guarantee that if you return to class sporting some of her affectations and special movement style, you are going to have a heck of a time unlearning that stuff and it is going to set you back.

In addition, I’ve seen a lot of local dance teachers and less qualified supposedly professional dancers putting on classes as well. I’m sure their intention is good, but – Actually, let me appeal to you all directly: Why not use this time to encourage your dancers to learn from those better than you? Don’t record a half-baked barre in your living room with cats in the way and your poorly demonstrated port de bras and feel that you are doing the world a favor. Be honest with yourself about your limitations and the opportunity here. Use this time to provide your dancers exposure to the kind of training that you should be hoping they can one day have in person. Some of the best dance coaches, artistic directors, and trainers in the world now have classes posted online. You can even do them together with your class. Don’t hold your students back in this way, I’m begging you. If you’re a professional dancer, tell the students out there to make sure they follow good training habits, and talk openly about what you are altering which they should not necessarily copy.

If you’re a student or teacher looking for the best of what’s out there, and trying to avoid the clutter, here are a few recommendations: