Dance Classes Transition Online

By Jesus Alcala Avalos| Apr. 7, 2021 01:00 P.M.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mt. San Jacinto College closed its campuses on March 13,2020. Every class normally in-person transitioned to online instruction.

Silhouette of Dancing Feet. Source Khoa Võ

“We weren’t expecting to move our classes to an online environment or to be impacted by a global pandemic, so I was surprised,” wrote Professor Julenda Freeman, Chair of the DanceDepartment on the San Jacinto Campus. Before the lockdown, in-person classes focused on the movement of the body. After teaching a maneuver, Freeman would observe students’ movements and provide feedback. Freeman would frequently help a student get to the proper alignment by directly moving their body.

woman dancing
Julenda Freeman Dancing

The transition online made teaching the class more difficult for Freeman, as the bodies of students are harder to observe through webcams and Zoom meetings. The virtual environment also prevents Freeman from giving hands-on corrections. Freeman recorded the Zoom meetings so that students could watch them when it was convenient to them.

According to Freeman, the most challenging aspect for students is finding enough space to dance. Freeman adjusted the course to focus on movements that do not require as much space to perform.

While some gyms operated outdoors during the pandemic, Freeman was against the idea for dance classes in the spring semester. Freeman believed that dancing on concrete would be too harsh on the body, and California weather would not be conductive to safety and comfort.

Dance classrooms have a sprung floor, which are more flexible than standard floors. This reduces the impact of dancing on the body compared to dancing on a standard floor.

Laptop setup on top of books with ring light to side
“Streaming Set Up” by Julenda Freeman

The Spring 2020 semester was difficult, but Freeman was more prepared for theFall 2020 semester. Freeman obtained better equipment for streaming and could manage the Zoom meetings by reducing the total number of students visible at a time during group showings. “I now feel more confident in teaching studio dance classes online.I have had time to hone the required skills that make teaching an online dance class effective. While Zoom dance classes are not ideal, our online classes allow us to continue to teach the skills and artistry of each dance technique offered. We are able to create community while dancing together in a Zoom space, sharing the hard work and joy of each dance form,” wrote Freeman.

Due to the online semesters, Freeman learned that there are courses that can function as an online class, like Introduction to Choreography (DAN 125) and Conditioning and Alignment for Dance(DAN 120). These classes may be offered online after MSJC reopens. Freeman noted that theFall semester had about three-fourths the number of students as usual. Also, there were less courses offered in the fall semester. The dance finals will be on Zoom. Students will perform their routine in small groups at a time.

Before the lockdown, Dance Production and Dance Performance students would create a routine and perform in the theatre. Now, students will record their performances and edit them into a dance film.

Not every class was affected by the lockdown. History and Appreciation of Dance was an online class before the pandemic. Students in that class watched and read about dances from various cultures and wrote about how those dances reflect and challenge culture.