Peebles pupils stay on pointe online thanks to dance school’s quick thinking
Peebles-based Fiona Henderson School of Dance has Zoomed into action to allow its pupils to “keep dancing” during the coronavirus lockdown.
While the young dancers are stuck in their homes and unable to come to the studio for classes, the school quickly researched the possibility of online sessions using the Zoom app, and it’s going down a storm.
The last face-to-face class was held on Thursday, March 19, one day before the region’s schools were closed.
Fiona Henderson, school principal, said: “we did some initial planning in anticipation of having to move some classes online, but that weekend was a whirlwind of activity, getting all the technology in place, new timetable finalised as well as ensuring all the teachers were trained and established in their new home-studios.”
The online classes were launched the following Monday and a full programme of 65 classes were held that first week.
All ages are taking part online ... from the pre-school ‘Little Stars’ classes (two years old) to the adults.
The school has been able to successfully transition all its normal classes online, including ballet, contemporary, tap, highland, street dance, jazz, modern, Scottish national, Irish and line dancing.
The only subject they’ve chosen not to run is Acro (acrobatic) dance, due to safety issues of teaching this style of dance when the teacher is not physically present to supervise.
Fiona says it’s important that pupils retain their fitness and general wellbeing during this lockdown period.
She told us: “Our classes are ‘business as usual’ as far as it is possible using the online classrooms.
“Our pupils are continuing to learn – each class will be focusing on different things in different subjects and grades, but in general they will be continuing to learn technique, exam syllabus content and routines for their forthcoming shows and performances.
“The lockdown is affecting people in different ways,” continued Fiona. “I know all our teachers are really missing our pupils so it’s great being able to see them and be with them ‘virtually’ in the meantime.”
The school has also introduced some new theory classes which augment the physical class tuition, partly because it has found that 45 minutes is an optimum length for pupils and teachers to concentrate for an online class and also it wanted to introduce some greater variety of learning experiences during the lockdown weeks.
Fiona’s husband Andy, who helps out with the school, said: “It has proven to be pretty reliable and everyone’s adapted well to using it – of course pupils found it easier than some of teachers who have been on a steep learning curve.
“We’d adopted many of the security features when we set our classes up from the outset and we’ve not experienced any issues using the technology.
“We’ve also used the knowledge we’ve gained to help a few other clubs and who have also gone online.”
Some changes had to be made, though. In a physical dance studio, you can just look at an individual pupil and then they know the teacher is addressing them, while online the teacher has to mention the pupil’s name, so they know that particular coaching feedback is specifically for them.
Fiona added: “Our prime focus has been on supporting our existing pupils, but we’ve also established some totally free family fitness classes for anyone to join in – whether or not they are a pupil of FHSD. The classes run via Zoom at 8am Tuesday and Thursday and 10am on Saturday.
The online classes are going well, but everyone will be looking forward to getting back to normal.
Fiona said: “There’s sure to be a party atmosphere for our first day back in our dance studios. In the meantime, though, we’re all just aiming to keep dancing!”