Writer Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.”
That’s exactly what students at Tabor Dance Academy are doing.
In light of recent regulations put in place because of COVID-19, instructors at the studio knew they had to find a way to keep their students dancing.
“The first two weeks we did YouTube,” Tabor said.
The instructors recorded warm ups, new combos and routines that the dancers have been practicing.
“We filmed it all,” Tabor said.
It became clear that a two-week closure was going to become indefinite.
“We didn’t want to give up on the season,” she said. “We didn’t want to give up on our seniors and our other students.”
There are more than 250 students who attend some of the 61 classes at the Academy. This year’s senior class, made up of 12 students, is the largest it has ever had. The second largest was 11 students in 1999.
“This has been a second home for a lot of them,” Tabor said.
“Most of them have been dancing since they were three,” Mackrill added.
YouTube worked in the short-term, but Mackrill said it wasn’t a long-term solution. They missed their students and couldn’t give them feedback.
“I went to school for dance and danced professionally, so I’ve got friends all over the United States who work at studios,” Mackrill said.
Many of her friends were either in the process of moving their operations online or they’d already done it.
Mackrill and Tabor talked to their fellow instructors, Danielle Fitzke and Selina Lerma. Fitzke’s husband works in the school system and had experience with Zoom, so the team decided to give it a try.
Students have the option of practicing on their own time or attending a live class at their usual time. Mackrill said she felt it was important to keep the class schedules the same, so students would have something familiar in such an uncertain time.
“With Zoom, they can talk to us and we can talk to them,” Mackrill said. “If we need to, we can mute everyone so we can teach and go forward. It seems to offer the things we’re needing.”
Mackrill realizes that a digital dance class wasn’t what families with dance students had in mind, but said there has been overwhelming support.
She estimates about 90-95 percent of their students have logged into classes so far.
“It’s been amazing watching kids dance in their living rooms,” she said.
It’s not easy to go from a dance lesson in a studio to one in a living room. Dancing on carpet can be tough and sometimes, they’re working in limited space. Regardless, they’re still dancing.
“I’m blown away by their commitment,” she said.
It doesn’t come without it’s kinks, Fitzke said. In order for instructors to reach their students, both sides need a reliable internet connection.
“It isn’t perfect,” Tabor said. “Sometimes there’s a little bit of a delay.”
It’s better than not dancing at all, she said.
Although the instructors are trying to make the best of the situation, it’s heartbreaking, Mackrill said.
Seniors won’t have the traditional recital they’re used to, although Mackrill said they’re trying to come up with some kind of performance that will take place when everything settles down.
“We really want to make something happen for our kids,” Mackrill said. “We want to honor them.”
The sudden end to the season also means that the 40 students on the academy’s competition team probably won’t get to compete any time soon.
“We have 23 dances that were choreographed just for competition,” Mackrill said.
Tabor said some were first-time competitors and others were seniors who’ve been practicing their last competitive solo.
There are boxes stacked in Tabor’s house, full of costumes that dancers will receive, but haven’t seen yet.
Their dancers are still dancing though, and Tabor sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We’re tired of crying about it,” she said. “We’re just trying to look on the positive side. It’ll change. It’ll get better. In the meantime, we’re kind of lonely. We miss our kids.”