Dance Advice

Make your digital dance move

Sydney Dance Company Classes on Demand. Photo by Daniel Boud.
Sydney Dance Company Classes on Demand. Photo by Daniel Boud.

Take a dance class on Broadway during your lunch break, try a new style, follow an international teacher, soak up different approaches to technical challenges – digital dance has much to offer dance professionals, dance teachers and dance lovers. What is going on in this quickly advancing field? Whilst digital offerings are often considered complementary to live teaching and face-to-face classes, many studios are embracing recent advances in streaming technologies and increasing digital participation.

William Forsythe, acclaimed choreographer, was a pioneer of digital technology for teaching dance. His Improvisation Technologies an interactive DVD ROM, released in 1999, taught his principals of improvisation and choreography, at a time when most people believed that only live transmission of dance pedagogy was of benefit. Of course, it was ahead of its time and like so much of Forsythe, destined to be a classic. Twenty-four years later, the contents of the DVD ROM remain revolutionary and are available online.  

Sydney Dance Company hosts the largest public dance class program in Australia. In the first year of the program becoming digital, it hosted over 70,000 attendances in virtual classes. The platform now consists of a library of classes for people to do anywhere, anytime led by company dancers and artistic collaborators, and industry specialists in all genres of dance. Samantha Dashwood is the Head of Open Programs & Learning at Sydney Dance Company. “Classes are delivered in a range of styles, from ballet to hip hop, contemporary to Pilates and body conditioning and more,” she says. “There is a class for everyone, no matter whether they’ve never danced before or are looking to progress and refine their skills.”

Dashwood says that people are joining Sydney Dance Company from all over the world. “We have a number of students who live in the beautiful regional areas in Australia,” says Dashwood, “or from around the world, who don’t have local access to dance classes, so the Classes On Demand offering provides a great opportunity to connect to that love of movement.”

She continues, “Sydney Dance Company’s exceptional teachers bring their expertise to each of their online classes and provide modifications, feedback and verbal cues in classes in a range of styles and levels.” Dashwood notes that the ability to pause or rewind the class allows for people to engage in the class at a pace that works best for them. “It also allows for the repetition of a favourite class, to either hone a technique or simply hit that fast-paced routine. Digital offerings allow for a level of flexibility that in-studio classes just can’t accommodate.”

Jude, a Sydney Dance online class participant describes what the flexibility Sydney Dance Company offerings has meant. “The online classes with Sydney Dance Company have changed my existence. As someone who lives with a chronic health condition, being able to take class from my own home and rewatch the videos has been excellent.”

Ballet Workshops Australia is a bespoke digital and live platform taking beginner and elite dance training to regional Australia. They offer live workshops in regional towns and online programs. “We find that many of our students are increasingly wanting to extend their studio experience and access teachers to take them to the next level or bridge gaps,” says Laura Bailey, who runs Ballet Workshops Australia. “We have had classical ballet students taking exams with distinction results who have done so solely online, dancers who have progressed onto pointe solely online, amazing eisteddfod results and many young students who have grown in confidence and competence every week.”

Bailey has been very involved in utilising innovative methods to deal with the limitations of the two-dimensional computer screen versus the three dimensions of the form. “Patience and creativity are key. We use a lot of imagery to convey things,” she explains. “We share drawings, find ways of explaining spacing that work for the individuals and their own style of learning and understanding, we use markers in home spaces/studios, we encourage the exploration of depth and changing levels, we have a body demonstrating as a teacher explains spacing. We sometimes get students to go outside to have more space and feel less confined by a Zoom screen and boxed in room.”

Another excellent digital platform is the Mark Morris Digital Dance Center. The Digital Dance Center is an on-demand library of classes in many styles, and is updated weekly with new classes. What is unique about Mark Morris Dance Center is that they offer classes in modern dance, a form that does not seem to be offered in any other online program. They also offer Haitian, West African dance and Waaking. Select drop-in classes at Mark Morris Dance Center are also available to livestream via Zoom.

At The Royal Ballet School, you can subscribe to an on-demand program where you can refine specific techniques such as épaulement, arabesque, or retiré with Royal Ballet School teachers and students. There are also tutorials on psychology and supplementary training. The Primary steps program for primary school aged children seven to 11 years old is a ‘teach the teacher’ program for educators already working in mainstream schools, inviting them to integrate dance and creative movement into the curriculum. There are lesson plans, webinars and resources for the students. Teachers and students can explore all subjects through the Royal Ballet School OnDemand classes, including maths and sciences, not just the traditionally expressive subjects of dance and art. These are great resources for mainstream teachers wanting to innovate.

Also from the UK, the world-renowned Rambert, a touring contemporary dance company based in London, has a popular online platform, Rambert Plus, that offers on-demand classes, alongside behind-the-scenes footage, short films and soundtracks to enjoy. From beginners to experienced dancers, Rambert offers a variety of classes for all ages and abilities such as ballet, contemporary, Indian dance, and popping and locking, to name a few. 

The Broadway Dance Center’s BDC Online is hard to go past if you are looking for the musical theatre dance experience. They have both on-demand and livestream classes, making Broadway jazz, tap, fusion and contemporary accessible all around the world. Like many subscription services, many of these programs and platforms offer a trial membership for between three and 14 days. 

Get dancing!

For more information or to trial classes, visit:

By Tamara Searle of Dance Informa.

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