The new normal. What effect has the social distancing of 1.5 meter distance for your dance school?
Every day we alternate between disbelief, fear, panic, denial and hope. Stubbornly trying to hold on to how our lives used to be. Hoping everything will get back to normal. That we can go back to where we left off. But the world has changed. There is no prospect of a vaccine yet and there will definitely be another wave of this virus. I’m not writing this to scare you. But the 1.5 meter society is a fact. And when you open your business again, you will have to fit your dance school and dance classes in that new normal. But how are you going to do that?
I understand the need to holding on to what was. I went through this when my own studio had to adapt to a new daily situation, three years ago. Admittedly due to circumstances other than a global virus. But, at the time, I fought hard to keep up the normal course of events as long as possible. Nevertheless, I had to smell the coffee and innovate and adapt in order to be able to practice my profession somewhat.
Traditionally, we teach in a dance room or hall to a group of people and especially live. By that, I mean up close and personal. Three years ago, I saw change. People didn’t have time to come to class every week anymore. And I not only saw this trend at my studio, but at several colleagues and also in several countries around the world. So it wasn’t an isolated event that only affected my studio. If it was only something that happened at my studio, you could say that my studio was not good enough and not attractive enough for the customers. But that was not the case. Based on surveys and conversations with clients and other dance school owners and teachers, I came to certain conclusions. The biggest conclusion was:
-People are leading extremely busy lives and have to choose what they are going to do. ‘The fear of missing out’ is definitely reality. They absolutely liked the classes, but traveling to the studio and having to choose between different activities every day led up to problems.
In 2018 I decided to take steps towards setting up a YouTube channel with short tutorials and exercises and offering online classes and courses. People called me crazy. They were convinced that it was never going to work. Also my idea to give private lessons via Skype. I got comments of people thinking of it being absurd. But it turned out nicely. As my research indicated, there was a niche. People received it very well, because they could now easily stay at home and dance whenever they wanted and do a few exercises instead of a whole class.
Okay, two years later and we are now all asked to sit at home and practice social distancing. No one could have foreseen that. And the market is now flooded with online classes by dance schools that transferred their live classes to online. And they have to. Because how else are you going to pay your rent and your teachers? Let alone pay yourself.
But now this is happening. Dance schools put their classes online as a new way of earning revenue. But dance companies are suddenly offering free classes. And so they compete directly with the dance schools. This isn’t good. Because the customer thinks: “Why should I pay, if I can get something for free? And it’s from a reputable dance company” While I understand that the companies are looking for ways to keep in touch with their audience. After all, performances have also been cancelled, this is ruining our market.
After fighting for more appreciation and more financial compensation, we are now seeing another big setback. And I understand that. It’s back to screaming for attention, delivering free material to attract attention and hoping to attract customers.
But there is so much more going on. Because the customer also has big problems. They are jobless, they are not getting any money. And the first priority is to take care of their family and certainly not dance classes.
Right, back to the problem: How can dance schools and dance teachers do their jobs in a 1.5 meter social distancing society?
- Problem 1: We can no longer teach to groups in a room.
Which makes things very difficult, because we need a certain number of students to pay the rent and the teacher and have some money on the dance schools bank account. I have had this problem myself many times. In the end, before my online classes, I had to cancel courses because otherwise I had to pay from my own pocket. Which, of course, is absurd.
In addition, you can no longer touch the students to correct or give feedback. That requires a different way of teaching. But one that many teachers have already discovered now by teaching online.
A solution could be to teach smaller groups or give private lessons. But then prices have to go up. And that will be perceived as a problem by the customer. Because they do not have any money and do not really understand why the prices have to go up. Because the value of a dance class is much lower in the customer’s mind. (Something we have created ourselves in our industry.)
Another solution could be to keep the online classes, but then we have to make it a serious business model. Don’t sell these classes at hefty discount or free. Think about this. There are ways to do this. Add a store to your own website. Or use an app or a platform. I can tell you what I do, but there are so many different ways and places, so go on and read and choose which suits your business best. But don’t decide too quickly so you’ll feel like you’re drowning because you have to. Stay calm and keep thinking.
- Problem nr. 2: We can no longer perform proup choreographies.
Well, this is a tough one. So the choreographies will have to be solos, duets or trio’s. But, if you have to keep the 1.5 meters distance, then you can no longer touch each other, let alone lift. No more partner work. That is, of course, absurd and crazy to think about. But that’s what social distancing means. We can’t just ignore that. This also has a huge impact on the work of companies. I am therefore very curious how choreographers are going to solve this.
Again I see online possibilities from your own location and bringing this together in a video or documentary. There will now be a renewal in the way of choreographing, working with dancers and bringing choreographies out to the public. This makes me somewhat excited. Having to adapt to certain parameters leads to creativity and innovation. For the past 20 years, I’ve seen some great works, but nothing new. There was always something recognizable to me, something that had been done before. A theme or idea that had been tried before. But now there are new rules of the game. That’s going to have an effect on the way we express ourselves in choreography. I am very curious to see what will happen.
- Problem nr. 3: We can no longer have big performances in a theatre.
Sure, we can try to admit fewer people and keep chairs and rows free. But what about the financial aspects? Renting the main hall and paying for it and then getting half the income? Then the rent prices of the theatres would have to go down or the prices for tickets up. And we all know that it is an annual battle to justify the prices of our tickets to the customer. So realistically this is probably not going to happen.
As a solution, I see here, again, making a performance on film and making it available on a platform (for a fee, not for free) for the customer.
I imagine you’re getting intense emotions reading all this. That you do not agree with me. That you’re convinced everything will go back to the way it was. That’s fine. In fact, I like to go into discussion and hear what others think about this problem. I hope I am exaggerating. I am a person who always thinks of the ‘worst case scenario’ and actually rarely has to use it. What solutions do you see? Let’s enter into discussion and see where this new world leads to.