Digital Master Classes Unite Dancers during Quarantine


Courtesy of Samantha Gardner

The 2020-21 Dance Company crew auditioned through a digital evaluation process last month as a part of the transition to digital learning.

Jenny Won, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Though the typically bustling dance studios have gone quiet since the pandemic began, student dancers continue to hone their skills behind their screens. As one of the arts that depends more heavily on in-person instruction, dance teacher Samantha Gardner has worked to bring the interactive process of dance instruction through the obstacles that the digital learning process has brought.

“Dancing alone is much different than dancing among the energy that a large group of people brings,” Gardner said. “However, I am doing my best to help my students continue to grow and develop as dancers using things like YouTube, reflective assignment, Google Meets, etc.”

One new method of learning has been dance master classes, led by professional guest choreographers such as Will Tran and Azuki Umeda.

“Master classes are basically virtual dance classes where dancers of any level can learn from a guest choreographer through a Zoom call for about 30 minutes,” junior Katie Liang said. “There’s different styles that are offered depending on which choreographer is asked to teach. So far there’s been contemporary, hip hop and jazz or jump technique.”

While it is difficult to recreate the collaborative atmosphere of a conventional dance studio, digital master classes offer unique benefits, as students can focus on dance styles and techniques that interest them personally. Guest choreographers also offer valuable new input that students may not have realized themselves.

“Personally, I think that master classes are great opportunities to improve your dance skills, especially because you get exposure to different styles of dance,” junior Annie Li said. “They’re fun and informative, and the choreographers are all talented and motivating to watch.”

Not only do the master classes provide an opportunity for students to refresh their dance skills at home, but they are also beneficial to their mental and physical health. Reconnecting with dance peers and actively exercising can help alleviate the stress that staying indoors for weeks may have brought.

“It is important to me that I keep students active and moving at home,” Gardner said. “We can practice our art even in the comfort of our own homes.”