“Elsie adores everything about DN Dance, it’s her happy place!” was the response from Pam when asked why her daughter kept on coming to DN Dance for so many years. A truly heartwarming message to read from the mother of one of our longest attending students; someone who has been coming to us for 9 years and spent her time dancing through lockdown.
Dance show postponed
This story starts back in March 2020 when COVID-19 hit us and lockdown was announced. We were just 10 days away from running our 10th Anniversary show at the EICC in Edinburgh and Elsie was due to be performing in 5 different show numbers. “My best memories of DN Dance are the shows” recalls Elsie, a sentiment shared by mum, Pam, who says “it’s such an exciting time for the dancers and for their families“. Alas, after 6 months of hard work and practice, not to mention the two year wait since the last show, it was all taken away in a flash.
At the time, we hadn’t dared to accept the gravity of the situation and the optimistic among us favoured the idea that the warm summer months would put paid to the virus. But the immediate cancellation of our biennial show and all face to face dance classes soon hit home hard. As dance school owners, our thoughts immediately went out to our students and teachers. How would they cope without their classes? Would they stop dancing through lockdown? Would they fall out of love with dance altogether? and How would our teachers earn a living?
The question we needed to answer was simply: What must we do to ensure that as many of our students as possible, just like Elsie, come out the other side of this pandemic feeling the same way about dance as they did before lockdown?
We needed a way to stay connected. So, like many business, we quickly went digital. We filmed a ton of class material and managed to set up our entire timetable online. Our teachers carried on by running live classes from their livingrooms and garages and home studios and we set homework practice assignments on Google Classrooms. The keenest dancers were there every week and we even picked up a few new faces along the way. We ran right throughout the Easter Break all the way through to the school summer holidays. We couldn’t have been prouder of the teachers efforts, the parents support and patience, and the students dedication. It was a real triumph of wills in the face of adversity.
Now, this where I explain the reason I’m writing this article. Despite the apparent success of the online offering, we still had a niggling concern. Are the dancers getting enough from us, or has this situation taken them a step backwards in their training? We couldn’t be there to correct their alignment, and we couldn’t always see or hear them all clearly on the screen. So are they really benefiting from our classes?
Dancing through lockdown with style
Enter Elsie Mcleod…. Elsie has been with us since she was just 20 months old. She has participated in every one of our dance shows and was a relatively new member of our competition team at the time lockdown hit. She was on a really good path in her training and was improving steadily, so we were desperate for her (as with all our dedicated students) not to go backwards. But our worries, thankfully, were short lived when a video homework assignment from Elsie pinged into Google Classrooms. Here she was, Elsie, mastering the pirouette. But not one or two pirouettes. Five. Yes, five consecutive pirouettes whacked out as if it was nothing. All of a sudden, we could see that Elsie was one to watch.
Elsie continued in the same vein throughout lockdown. Her classes were a whole family affair, with the kitchen and living room furniture being shipped in and out each day to make space for her home dance studio. She completed every home practice assignment and we could see she was going from strength to strength every week. Elsie was certainly improving, but what about everyone else?
The hard work pays off…
Several months later, September 2020, we finally get back into the studio. We are both delighted and amazed to see that almost every student who stuck with the online classes actually came back stronger and more accomplished. But none moreso that Elsie McLeod, who was fitter, more flexible and more capable than ever, and with the same infectious smile and enthusiasm.
We are super impressed with the hard work of all our DN Dance students over lockdown, but we reserved a special mention for Elsie, not just for her application to dancing through lockdown, but also for the scale of her improvement. She’s a fine example of where hard work and dedication can take you.
So, did we manage to keep the joy alive for our students by dancing through lockdown?
Well, certainly in this instance, I would say Mission Accomplished!
Author: Lindsay Bleakley, Director, DN Dance