Remote learning stories: Hannah Seidel finds a way through video for dance students to learn teaching

Zoe Lionas teaches a virtual class.
Zoe Lionas teaches a virtual class.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo
Zoe Lionas teaches a virtual class.
Zoe Lionas teaches a virtual class.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

One of the key assignments for Hannah Seidel's dance pedagogy class is having her students teach at a dance studio in the community.

Developing a lesson plan and teaching people they haven't worked with before especially hones communication skills along with other capabilities, said Seidel, assistant professor of dance.

When the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled plans to teach in the community, Seidel tapped her contacts to find a way for her students to instead teach a lesson over video. Seidel was able to find dancers who were excited for the opportunity to have Seidel's students teach them.

They worked over Zoom when they could, Seidel said. When live streaming wasn't an option, Seidel's students recorded themselves teaching and exchanged the video with their own students.

Besides the obvious adjustments, lessons were dictated by how much space teacher and student could clear, Seidel said. She observed interactions where her student looked for the best opportunity virtually to provide feedback, a challenge since so much of teaching dance is about reading the feeling in the room.

"I think it was still an effective experience," Seidel said. "These students are often trying to bring a lot of information together in real time, and communicating the combination of movement and underlying concepts and philosophies." 

One of Seidel's students, Zoe Lionas, was grateful that she had the opportunity to teach the virtual class. Her class involved teaching 12- and 14-year-old sisters modern contemporary dance.

She made some adjustments beforehand, such as providing the students a playlist ahead of time, which is generally not the practice with in-person classes, said Lionas, who is majoring in dance and allied health sciences.

Other adjustments were in the moment: Working with a video delay when trying to do counts, stepping back from the screen to demonstrate a move then sitting closely to observe, as well as providing feedback.

"The only feedback I could give is verbal and it's sometimes harder to use words," Lionas said. "For dancers you want to be able to move someone's body to teach the proper technique. Dance is more about the experience and it's hard to tell if they're getting the experience you want them to get when I can only see the steps."

To try to replicate that experience virtually, Lionas asked her students to reflect on an activity and how their body reacted. Lionas said the students provided positive feedback at the end, telling her they learned new and challenging techniques and that they appreciated the discussions throughout class.

To Lionas, even with technological opportunities to teach dance remotely, the in-person human connection will remain essential to the dance experience.

"Even when you just watch a dance video, you miss so much more than when you are sitting in the theater watching it," Lionas said.