Our Lockdown Journey
As we prepare to re-open our classes in person in September, we thought we’d take a look back over the last 4 months at everything we have achieved during lockdown!
I remember that sinking feeling when we realised that we had no option but to close our doors and stop classes. It was gutting, well and truly gutting! I called Miss Mandy, we discussed it, and decided that the safest thing to do for our dance families was to stop running physical classes. We made the decision before the Government officially told us we had to, and we really believe it was the right one. The health and safety of our students has to come first. So, that was it.
We called a ‘crisis’ team meeting via zoom, and chatted to our teachers. We wanted to check who was able (And comfortable) teaching online classes. I’m not going to lie. Those first 2 weeks of transitioning from physical classes to a live online class was probably the hardest two weeks in the life of running Rise! None of us had a clue how to offer online classes, it just wasn’t something we’d EVER thought about. All of us were feeling pretty apprehensive. Would it work? Would people WANT to dance online? Would the whole family be sitting there watching us teach? Would they have space? Did we have space? What about internet connection?
A million questions were whizzing through our minds, but we all knew we had to give it a go. I am so proud of each and every one of the Rise team, who went above and beyond to make sure we could offer classes, and give our students some sense of routine during the lockdown. Some of them had to kick their partners out of the lounge for hours at a time, or ask their housemates to stay in another room whilst they taught. We moved furniture, rolled up rugs, hoovered and tidied before every class, plugged the kids into their iPads or a movie and off we went!
After agreeing that we would offer online classes, I set about researching it. Would our insurance cover us? What licenses did we need? Should we do pre-recorded or live? What platform should we use? It was a massive learning curve, and one that had to happen extremely quickly. We closed one day and were up and running on line the next day!
Mandy and I got together at West Herts Studio and pre-recorded several classes for our little ones. What a hilarious day! I would love to show you the outtakes… not to mention recording a whole 30-minute session to find out that it hadn’t actually recorded!! We must have spent 8 hours recording just a handful of classes. Then home to edit and upload them somehow- again, another thing to learn!
We decided on Google Hangouts Meet as our live platform. Even setting that up wasn’t straight forward. A number of tutorials later and we had our three studios set up on Google Meets. We tested it out with some of the teachers and low and behold it all seemed to work! Fab, let’s get going…
We figured out a reduced timetable that was manageable, and all the teachers began to plan their online sessions. You really do have to think about what you are going to teach, it’s a completely different environment online. The students don’t have the same space that they would in a studio, internet connections vary so it looks like everyone is dancing at different times, and there’s the safety aspect of not being able to physically correct your students. The atmosphere is different. How do you recreate the atmosphere of a live class through a computer screen??
All of this has to be considered when planning your classes. Travelling steps have to be modified to fit the space, floor work needs to be avoided as we don’t know what kind of floors our dancers are dancing on, and any highly technical steps need to be approached with caution to avoid injury. I made the decision not to offer pointe work during lockdown for this very reason. I couldn’t forgive myself if a student got injured by using their pointe shoes incorrectly.
At the same time, I set up a Google Classroom. We really wanted to offer our students ideas, advice, choreography, crafts and lots of other fun dance related things to do during lockdown. Hopefully you guys enjoyed some of the things we put on there. We spent lots of time finding word searches, colouring pages, mazes and more, and branding them with the Rise logos, for students to enjoy at home.
For that first week of online classes, I had to log into every single class, just to double check that it was all working properly and that the teachers were comfortable. The second week I just logged in for the first class each day, and after that I could let the teachers do it themselves as all seemed to be working well.
We honestly thought we’d only be doing this for a few weeks, and that after Easter we’d be back in the studio…How wrong we were!
When we broke for Easter we decided to look into things further as Google Hangouts Meet had its limitations and we thought there might be a better platform out there. We discovered that with zoom we’d be able to see more students on the screen at one time in the gallery view. It also seemed a more reliable and easy to use platform, so we decided to switch over to zoom. Just when we’d all got used to Google Meets! Doh.
I had also been researching the sound. We were having problems being heard when the music was playing, so myself and Mandy invested in some head mics, which meant the sound quality was a lot better. Sadly, we couldn’t afford to get every teacher a head mic, so the others had to make do!
During the lockdown it was reported that many young people were struggling with their mental well-being, so we decided to organise an online talent show to raise money for Young Minds. Young Minds is a charity that provides support for young people suffering with mental health issues. We had such a fabulous time watching our students perform via zoom. Such a new and surreal experience for us all, but they were absolutely brilliant, and did us proud. We raised £223 for the charity and it was a brilliant evening! You can watch the highlights here.
We have also offered competitions on our Facebook Page. Our colouring competition and our Crazy Hair comp. The winners received Rise Studios bags and certificates through the post. We loved looking at all your pictures and crazy hair, it was difficult to pick a winner!
Our amazing Musical Theatre teacher Kieran, put together a fantastic script that the students collaborated on, all about staying home during lockdown and having meetings on zoom. It was hilarious and something they all enjoyed. Our other Musical Theatre teacher Charlotte created a fab montage of the students singing “When Will my Life Begin’ . How very apt for these times! My modern and ballet students learnt routines that I then put together in a little ‘lockdown’ video montage. Annie continued to coach our LAMDA students for their exams. Some of them took their exams online and our seniors went into London to take in person exams. We held a 9 to 5 Workshop with West End Professional, Jenny Legg. We sent home postcards to our students thanking them for their continued effort online.
I am so proud of all my teachers at Rise and what we have achieved in the last 4 months. I truly believe that dance and drama is more than just a class. We are teaching life skills, and looking after our student’s mental health. I hope that we have played a part in keeping your child active and happy during this difficult period.
We are so looking forward to getting back to the studio, but we are also so grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to work outside our comfort zones and provide a valuable service during the pandemic.
Book your classes now for September