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Continuing Education:  Adventures in Digital Learning


I am sure most of you will agree, there is no substitute for being in a classroom, eager to learn from a teacher that you respect and trust.  But what do you do when a teacher isn't available in the style, specialization or skill level that you need, in order to keep growing towards your dance goals?  Ideally you spend the time and the money to travel to attend workshops, intensives or courses.  But what if that option isn't available either?


Luckily we live in a time where there are many avenues of additional learning open to us when we can't get the live instruction we need.  I thought I'd share some of the pros and cons of my own personal experience with digital learning.


DVDS - I have an extensive collection of instructional and performance DVDs by many of my favourite performers/teachers.  


     Pros –

          1.     You pay a one-time fee and you have that instruction available to you at your convenience.  

          2.     You can pace yourself and or repeat as often as you like to absorb the content and build stamina,

                  strength and speed.

     Cons –

          1.     You must be disciplined to make yourself work with the material regularly and I confess that I have not

                  made the most of some of the wonderful instruction that I have at my fingertips.  

          2.     Sometimes the instruction is not clear or is rushed in the videos.

          3.     No feedback from the teacher


PRE-RECORDED ONLINE LESSONS – these are very much like using DVDs.  Sometimes you purchase the lesson for a short period of time or you can pay a little more and save it as a digital download on your computer, laptop or iPad.  Lessons can be short and specialized or longer, covering several aspects of one topic.


     Pros & Cons – Same as for DVDs


LIVE ONLINE LESSONS – PRIVATE OR GROUP


     Pros –

          1.     You can book packages or pay as you go.  

          2.     Most instructors give you the option to cancel or change your lesson date up to 24 hours in advance

                  with no penalty.

          3.     There is a sense of being in a live classroom as you interact with other students and the teacher during

                  the class.  You can ask questions and make comments – either via microphones or by live chat.

          4.     You receive feedback – both general and specific – from the instructor as she “scrolls” around the class

                  to watch students run through the drills or combinations

          5.     You can take the lesson no matter where you are.  I was able to attend my regular Saturday class even

                  when I was on vacation!

          6.     Private classes with the instructor of your choice allows you to have specific feedback and things to

                  work on even when you can't travel to learn from that teacher.


     Cons –

          1.     Sometimes the audio or visual quality can suffer when streaming live.

          2.     Continuity of weekly lessons can vary according to the instructor's schedule.  For example, I study

                  online with Sadie Marquardt and I take weekly group classes from mid-September to May.  However,

                  there are gaps due to her travel schedule and we always break in the summer when she is busy with

                  her summer touring schedule.


ONLINE INTENSIVES & COACHING – I only have experience with a group online intensive but I know that some dancers prepping for competition will seek coaching from a trusted instructor as part of their preparation.  My only experience with online intensives has been with Amanda Rose so I will speak specifically to the program as she offers it.


     Pros –

          1.     These are of a short duration (4, 6 or 8 weeks) covering specific topics, stylizations or techniques so

                  there is no need to make a long term financial or time commitment to lessons you might not be able to

                  attend or use.

          2.     Each weeks' lessons are usually only available for a week which I find makes me motivated to make the

                  most of the money I've spent by working as much and as hard as I can with the material before it's

                  gone.

          3.     Each lesson has basic and advanced drill components and a combination breakdown before the     

                  combination is run with the music.

          4.     Once signed up you become part of a private Facebook group for that particular intensive so that you

                  can interact with the teacher and other students, sharing experiences, motivating each other and

                  asking questions.

          5.     Sometimes there is a bonus week in which you are asked to videotape yourself doing one of the week's

                  combinations and post it to the group Facebook page.  The group is invited to comment and the

                  teacher then will give you private feedback via Facebook Message.  


     Cons – To be honest, other than not being a live class, I can't think of any negatives with this type of     

     experience as I found that I am motivated to work consistently.  By also videotaping myself each week I am

     able to recognize that I am actually improving.  


FEEDBACK/CRITIQUE GROUP – recently I decided to join a Facebook group specifically for posting videos for critique and feedback.  I chose a group where I don't know the other dancers so that feedback given and received is not biased.  


     Pros –

          1.     Having unbiased eyes looking at your work and giving feedback can help you be more objective about

                  your work and much more open to understanding what you need to do to reach the goals you've set

                  for yourself.

          2.     When there are clear rules of conduct and guidelines re giving feedback, this can be a valuable tool for

                  seeing yourself as others see you when you dance.  


     Cons –

          1.     There are a lot of people who have joined the particular group I am in who watch the videos but never

                  comment on what they see.  Nor do they share their own work.  I don't particularly like the fact that

                  others can sit back and be voyeurs without taking any risks themselves.

          2.     Sometimes it is obvious that the people critiquing really don't have much idea about the style of dance

                  they may be commenting on – even when the submission has been labeled and background

                  information on the performance or work in progress has been given.


VIDEOTAPING YOURSELF – I remember reading a long time ago that in the early days of her dance journey Rachel Brice used to videotape herself constantly so that she could gauge her own progress.  I have found that videotaping choreography demos for my classes and videotaping my personal works-in-progress has helped me tremendously in improving technical skills where I already knew I was lacking.  Not to mention, a fair amount that I did not realize I was lacking until watching myself on playback!  Most of us have a love/hate relationship with videos of ourselves but along with seeing things that need improving – whether that be technical skills, use of space, angles, posture, etc. it can be very rewarding to see snippets of things and realize you have finally gained some level of control over something you've been struggling with!


Places to purchase DVDs, pre-recorded and streaming lessons:  direct from the instructor's web sites, workshops, Cheeky Girls Productions, IAMED, RAQSTV, Datura Online, bellyblasfitness

Hubs for live private & group classes:  Skype, powhow, bellyblastfitness


Examples of teachers offering online Classes, Privates, Intensive & Coaching Offerings:  Amanda Rose, Ansuya, Hannan Sultan, Ranya Renée, Ruby Beh, Sadie Marquardt, Suhaila Salimpour


There are quite a few other digital scenarios that I haven't had experience with but I hope you have as much fun discovering ways to keep learning and growing as I have!


Bobbie @ Bashirah MED Company

June 27, 2016