It’s hard to believe it’s already October. But as I surround myself with pumpkin spice everything and binge-watch scary movies, it’s undeniable that it’s fall and Halloween is just around the corner. Unlike prior years, when I would be busy making my usual preparations for over-the-top Halloween celebrations, I’ve been busy making changes to my home to allow me to incorporate more dance training into my routine during these unprecedented times.
For many of us, to ensure our health and safety, dance training this fall will need to be done at home. Many dance studios are either closed or operating at a very limited capacity. If any of you are struggling with figuring out how to keep dance in (or put dance back into) your life as an at-home activity, I’m hoping the below suggestions will help you find your way.
1. Modify. Modify. Modify.
When dancing at home, unless you have a home studio, you’ll likely need to make modifications to your training so that you don’t injure yourself. Modifications aren’t the end of the world!
If the choreography you’re working on requires more space than you have, add direction changes or work on it in pieces. If your floor doesn’t have a lot of give (most don’t), reduce jumps (or remove them altogether depending on the amount of spring in your floor and your own body), because practicing leaps on a floor that is not sprung—like it would be in a studio—will wreak havoc on your joints and could cause serious injury. You’ll also likely need to modify your turns. If you’re dancing on a floor that is too sticky (or fuzzy, like a carpet), you should take out the turns and replace them with balances. Turning on a floor with too much friction can cause your knees and ankles to torque in an unhealthy, potentially damaging way.
Don’t let the fact that certain flooring will impact your training discourage, you, though. You just need to remember to be creative in the way you think about your training. For example, maybe one portion of your home has a great floor for turning, but no space for traveling, while another may have a ton of room for doing choreography that travels, but a floor that is sticky as all get out. Change locations to safely work on different elements of your dance practice. Maybe you dance the choreography from a virtual class in your big, sticky-floored space—modifying to remove turns—and then separately work your pirouettes in a different part of your home.
2. Your dance space.
On top of modifying your dance training, you can also modify…wait for it…your home! Ask yourself how you can transform your home to be a more workable home dance studio. Since most of us aren’t lucky enough to have sprung Marley floors, ballet barres, and walls of mirrors, it can require some creativity. It’ll also probably require moving some furniture.
In my home, for instance, I made space by donating two big living room chairs and permanently shifting an area rug to a new spot to expose my tile floor, so that I could have a dance space available to me every day. For me, I knew that if I didn’t create a dance space, I wouldn’t want to dance every day. All I could think of was the headache of constantly moving furniture. As a dancer who is now dancing at home, having a dance space is just as important to me as having a couch to lounge on and watch TV. (Don’t worry, the couch and TV haven’t gone anywhere.) For a ballet barre, I’ve repurposed a dining room chair and I use the camera on my iPhone or computer as a “mirror” to see myself.
When choosing an area to clear out, you need to consider your flooring. Do you have wood floors? Carpeting? Tile? I’ve found that a hardwood floor is a great place to do your home dance classes, followed by tile, and then carpet. If you’re used to training on Marley, you might consider buying a piece and laying it down on top of your hard dance surface (in a safe way where it’ll stay put and no one will trip on it). These days it’s pretty easy to find portable dance Marley made for at-home use in a home improvement store or even online. If you only have carpet or tile flooring, you aren’t totally out of luck, but you’ll need to pay even closer attention to modifying your dance practice to ensure you stay safe.
Now that you’ve thought about modifications to your training and your home dance space, you’re probably thinking: What about teachers and classes? In this internet age, this is the easiest part of figuring out your home-training regimen. Many of the top studios have gone online. For example, two of New York’s top professional studios, Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway, are offering virtual classes. There are also many Broadway artists teaching virtual classes on a new platform called PassDoor. If you’re looking for private lessons or you want to continue studying with your long-time teachers, don’t hesitate to reach out to your studios and inquire about their virtual classes. I know loads of dancers who are teaching their students privately over Zoom. You now have access virtually to so many incredible instructors all around the world!
So while you sit down to sip your pumpkin spice latte, take some time to get creative and to find ways to make dancing work with where we are today. Growing up in the theater, you learn that “the show must go on!” That saying is so true! I want to encourage you to not look at the problem but to try and find a solution for it. That’s what performing is all about!
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