Dance Students Keep Their Technique in Top Form, Online

Published: September 21, 2020

Practice makes perfect in this distance learning world.

What was a sudden and challenging transition last spring is now smoother, more familiar. And not only in Blackboard webinars where students solve math problems, or write essays, or speak a foreign language, but also in dance, where students haven’t missed a step.

As with semesters past, students are studying contemporary dance technique, building a repertoire of choreography, and developing a personal style. Students also continue to write papers on performances, careers in dance, and more.

Emily Berry, Associate Professor and Director of the Dance program at Queensborough continues teaching Intermediate Modern Dance, choreography, and Foundations of Dance Movement. (Her area of expertise also includes Contact Improvisation, Dance Workshop and all levels of Ballet and Modern Dance.) She began pursuing her own choreographic endeavors in 1995.

"It has been amazing to watch many of our students adjust so beautifully to their new environment” said Berry, speaking from her living room in Jackson Heights, Queens.

“We ZOOM full body and are able to have a class, and rehearse a piece. I can evaluate a student’s technique through the zoom classes and having them submit videos of themselves doing the phrases from class. They are continuing to train and develop their skills.”

She pointed out that, “Dance instructors, too, have made huge adjustments and learned new software! We have ongoing discussions about new best practices and resources. For example, we have created files of available online performances to fulfill their requirements of seeing live performances.”

Berry herself has a distinguished resume as a world-renowned choreographer and dancer. She is Founding Director of B3W Performance Group which she established in 2006. The group is a social impact arts organization committed to collaboration and reflection, revealing the world we live in through community-building workshops and multi-disciplinary performances. B3W Performance Group will begin resuming rehearsals virtually as soon as they have a grant to premiere their latest work: Reframing Forgiveness: For Practical Use in Dismantling Systemic Racism on June 4th and 5th, 2021 at Green Space in Long Island City.

“Our dance program is strong and growing,” said Dr. Andrea Salis, Associate Professor and Chair of the Health, Physical Education and Dance Department. “Enrollment has increased, which is a testament to the Program, the faculty and the student body. The Program embodies inclusiveness and diversity and promotes a strong connection between our students and the community. To see how the Program fosters support of students by faculty, as well as other students in amazing to behold.”

While students and faculty have virtually conquered most of the technical issues, there remain unique challenges to dancers such as how to concentrate during technique class while family members (and pets) walk through the same space.

“I tell my students that this is an opportunity to build the skill to block those distractions out and not lose their concentration since they will need to do that in crowded shared dressing rooms in shared shows at some point in their careers. Learning choreography from video is another skill they will need at some point in their careers as well, so taking class via a zoom screen will help them build that skill.”

“At the same time, I empathize with what they are going through. I too am working in a confined space. It’s hard for me to overcome distraction as well, especially since I have a five-month old!”

“These circumstances offer an inspiration; an opportunity to refresh my own teaching and broaden my way of thinking and approach to teaching.”


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