Ethan Ahuero was having a good year: he was in his first season dancing with Kansas City Ballet II and had been presented with the opportunity to choreograph on the second company. "The day before we shut down I had a rehearsal, and I was so happy," Ahuero says. "The piece was coming together and this was the first time I felt really proud of my creative process."
Suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic brought everything to a halt. With the company's season cut short and the studios closed, Ahuero found himself attempting to continue dancing from home, with his choreography project put on hold. Like many other dancers around the world, Ahuero is dealing with disappointment while struggling to stay motivated.
Keeping up with daily ballet classes may feel difficult right now; inspiration can seem hard to come by when you're following along on Zoom and short on space at home. Below are a few simple tips for finding new ways to stay motivated.
Spruce Up Your Dance Space<p>It can be frustrating to train at home when the space doesn't feel like a studio. But changing the room up a little can help. Dancers are coming up with creative solutions: setting up mirrors for self-correction, laying down a square of Marley flooring, even building barres from PVC piping. Creating a makeshift "studio space" can make it easier to get your head into the zone.</p>
Make a To-Do List<p>Try creating a list of what you want to achieve each week to help you stay on track. Dancers tend to be creatures of habit, so following a schedule can provide normalcy during a very unusual time. If creating a weekly schedule feels overwhelming, make a daily one instead. It's fine to take things a day at a time! </p><p>"After feeling a bit lost and unmotivated, I decided to start making daily checklists of things to do so that I had some kind of set schedule each day," says Anamarie McGinn, a company dancer with Orlando Ballet. "Even listing simple things like giving myself class, going for a walk or recording a live workout video for social media keeps me feeling motivated and helps pass the time." </p>
Try the Buddy System<p>It's easier to stick to a schedule when you're not alone in your efforts. "Dancers have talked to me about not wanting to do class and feeling unmotivated," says Renee Aguilera, ballet mistress at Roanoke Ballet Theatre. "I recommend finding a 'dance friend' to act as an accountability partner that you can do class with," she says. Reach out to a colleague or fellow student (or even a friend you made at a summer intensive) and agree to take a few classes together virtually. Having someone you trust and admire to keep you accountable can help you maintain class attendance and will likely strengthen your friendship, as well.</p>
Get Specific<p>Zoning in on small goals can give you a sense of purpose. Without rehearsals or choreography projects to factor for, you have extra time to focus on specific weaknesses or details in your technique. Perhaps now is the time to concentrate on that lifted hip correction, or address the positioning and detail of your arms and fingers. Ahuero has begun cross-training and working on building muscle. Returning to the basics is so essential, yet frequently overlooked. When you go back to the studio you will be a more well-rounded dancer—and your teachers will be thrilled, as well!</p>
When your dance studio is your second home, taking class in your actual home just isn't the same. But if there's one silver lining to the current situation, it's that some of the biggest dance stars from stage and screen have gone online to lead barres, host dance parties, demonstrate combos, and teach technique classes—some of which are completely free.
"Students can learn so much from working with the pros directly," says American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who teaches on Zoom through Universal Ballet Competition as well as offering the Cindies Ballet Class on Instagram Live with fellow ABT principal James Whiteside. "It's inspiring and eye-opening to connect with dancers all over the world."
So what benefits do these virtual master classes offer? How do they fit into your overall training regimen? And how do you even navigate all of the content that's out there? Read on for advice from the pros.
Be Choosy<p>Is there a teacher you've always wanted to take from, but couldn't get to in person? Are dancers from your dream company or summer intensive offering online classes? Lisa Pelliteri, owner of Plumb Performing Arts Center in Scottsdale, AZ, encourages seeking out virtual classes that will help you explore your career goals. "I tell my students, 'Please experiment!'" she says. "Learn what's out there. See what a style feels like on your body. Try something different." Celeb master classes can count as research toward your future.</p>
Dana Wilson teaching an online class (courtesy Wilson)
Plan How You'll Learn<p>For virtual workshops, let go of the pressure to get every detail right. "Focus on broad strokes first," says commercial performer Dana Wilson, who teaches for New York City Dance Alliance, including NYCDA's ongoing Virtual Dance Experience. If the teacher posts YouTube videos, prep for success in the live session by watching them, to get a feel for their style. Also, on a platform like Instagram Live where the teacher can't see you, "feel empowered to do a bit of your own thing," Wilson says. "A hidden gem here is that you can exercise your creativity."</p>
Francesca Hayward leading a Zoom class for UBC (courtesy UBC)
Take It Home<p>"Online master classes aren't a replacement for your studio classes," cautions Pelliteri. Even in a time when physical contact isn't an option, your regular teachers know you on a personal level. "We know what you're working on and can give more precise corrections," Pelliteri says. If a comment in a master class resonates with you, bring it to your studio teacher to dig deeper.</p>
Updated on 5/21/2020
Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.