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  • Writer's pictureWaterfront Theatre School

A letter from Delia Sainsbury: Digital Transformation in the dance studio

In an article for the I.S.T.D international magazine, our wonderful WTS director tells us all about what's been happening in South Africa at the Waterfront Theatre School and how they have had to digitally transform their dance studio.

It has been an extremely challenging time for our teachers here in South Africa as I am sure it has been and still is, across the world. We are now at “Level 2”, which means the gyms are allowed to re-open. I refer to this, as there has never been a ruling here with regards to Dance Schools. Therefore, we fell into no specific category during the COVID-19 pandemic. My own studio, The Waterfront Theatre School, required two clearances to re-open, one as a business, and secondly as a “gym" and a theatre space. Subsequently, we were only allowed 33% of students on campus at any one time under Level 3, and now 66% under level 2.

Online platforms

I am pleased to say that most teachers have recovered their students, although in many cases, we have had to agree to deferred payments due to parents losing their jobs or businesses. The online platforms have been a revelation for us. Six months ago, we would never have thought it possible to teach dance online. Of course, our shows and demonstrations have been on hold. I was recently a senior judge on an excellent online competition platform called Project Performer. This has resulted in being able to promote the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in another medium and reaching a huge number of people who previously would not have known about the Society.

Creative Ways of Teaching & Learning

We have all been adapting to a new way of dancing both online and in class and have in turn become far more creative! Recently the young dancers in our Junior School created hats out of jerseys or anything they had brought to class, created characters from musical interpretation, adapted syllabus to create different choreography, and much more!. It took a great deal of effort to bring the children back into the building and we really wanted them to have fun and reignite their passion for dance after weeks in isolation, online classes, and home-schooling. I feel sure all our Associates have benefited from having to think outside the box as our teachers are having to create an exciting range of resources to stimulate enjoyment within the classroom which is developing our teaching and learning environment.'

Online Summer School & Social Media

Many teachers have been taking part in the I.S.T.D. online Summer School. It has been enormously beneficial as so many more international I.S.T.D. teachers have been able to take advantage of the vast knowledge of the exceptional tutors without the costs of international flights and accommodation. This will probably be the way forward in this 'Brave New World'. The Faculty Facebook groups for the society, which have been established on social media have resulted in a much closer communication between teachers with so many questions being answered that otherwise would remain unanswered until a “face to face” course became available. Search the groups here.

Trialling Remote Dance Examinations

In this examination session, we are entering all I.S.T.D. genres in Classical Ballet, Modern Theatre Dance, Tap, Street Dance, and the new Foundation Intermediate Contemporary Dance syllabus. We are entering up to Associate Diploma Status, and have been happy to trial these examinations for the forthcoming online examinations.

At times, Wi-Fi connections are not always the most reliable. We also experience what is known as "load shedding”, which is when our power is cut completely without warning. This results in several hours of no internet and therefore no connectivity. We are still exploring other avenues with the Society as to how this will be managed. Watch this space.

We have experimented with only two candidates in the examination room, adhering to the requirements of both the teacher and pianist or music operator being in shot at all times. This has proved to be quite a challenge, as we found the dancer was very inhibited and concerned with not moving out of shot, so losing a sense of freedom and enjoyment to a large extent. Spatial awareness was compromised and artistry difficult to judge.

We are all still working on the best platform and at this stage still have time to adapt before our October/ November sessions.


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