By Kristin Boza
Finding creative, yet productive, ways to conduct online dance classes is a challenge Marylee Sinopoli, owner of Dance Gallery Chicago, accomplished. No matter what happens with the stay-at-home orders this summer, Sinopoli and her crew of dance teachers are prepared to continue offering virtual lessons to keep their dancers moving.
“We began virtual classes on May 4 for a 6-week session. It’s going really well; I’m not very tech-savvy, but I’m getting the hang of it,” Sinopoli said. “It was so fun to see all the kids’ faces. They are all excited to continue dancing and they think Zoom classes are normal now.”
Sinopoli realized that Zoom, a popular program to host live virtual classes and meetings, wasn’t very conducive for a dance class because the video quality tends to be poor. She began researching and found a better streaming platform, which offers a much higher quality video, thereby enhancing the ability of the instructors to aid their dancers online.
“We’re initiating the new online streaming classes for our summer session, taking place June 22 through July 30,” Sinopoli said. “We’re hoping the children will be able to come into the building for summer classes, but if we can’t, we have a solid back-up plan in place. This new system is much more high-tech and it looks so much better on the screen.”
The added bonus of the online streaming platform is that teachers can pre-record their class so students can attend at their leisure. Plus, they can teach for a full hour, versus the 40-minute time limit on Zoom. “But we will have to modify our classes, as it is too difficult to give intensive combinations to our high-level dancers because they have limited space at home,” Sinopoli said. “We are continuing to work on technique and essential skills while having fun.”
Dance teachers have conducted their classes in their Dance Gallery studios, and the classes have been staggered to allow only two teachers in the building at one time to ensure proper social distancing. Currently, Dance Gallery is offering 15 classes, and many students are signing up for them. “I think parents are itching to get some regularity in their child’s life,” Sinopoli said.
Although virtual offerings are the norm nowadays, Sinopoli can’t help but feel sad for what the kids are missing. “We miss rehearsals and being backstage. Our dancers are missing a big trip and performance in New York City this year. All that is cancelled and it’s just been a bummer of a year,” she said.
To sign up for a virtual drop-in class, which runs through June 11, or to sign up for the summer session, visit DanceGalleryChicago.com.