Some Hilton Head Island and Bluffton residents are gracefully dancing their way through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since many businesses, including dance studios, have had to close, some dance classes have gone virtual. And although dance studios have had to put their performances on hold, dancers are continuing to work at home through virtual rehearsals.
Some studios are even offering free lessons.
“Kids have lost everything – their clubs at school, their friends at school, their play dates, their other activities that aren’t able to go into a live stream kind of format,” said Dawn Miller, Bluffton School of Dance owner and artistic director.
The dance school is providing live classes via Zoom video conferencing for their currently enrolled students and pre-recorded classes for dancers who are not yet enrolled with the school. The pre-recorded classes are part of several eight-week courses on various styles of dance.
Miller said the studio is also offering free classes via Facebook Live. These classes are geared more toward adults than children; however, the studio puts on a story time for kids at 7:15 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays. Visit blufftonschoolofdance.com/virtual-classroom for more information.
Hilton Head mom Jessica Schmidt is thankful her five-year-old daughter, Liesel, is able to continue dancing with her teacher and fellow students at Bluffton School of Dance, even if it’s just over the internet.
Schmidt said Liesel had a difficult time adjusting after school and dance were canceled.
“Kids crave normalcy and a routine,” Schmidt said. “For Liesel, dance training and rehearsals were an important part of her weekly routine … When everything around them was changing, the studio maintained that routine and normalcy for them.”
Hilton Head Ballroom Dance Studio has also moved to online classes. Co-owner Sandro Virag and instructor Gia Jaggers teach some of the basics, including free salsa, swing, cha cha and disco lessons, at 10 a.m. Fridays on Facebook Live through the studio’s page.
Virag leads a barre class at 7 p.m. Mondays on YouTube Live. Go to YouTube and search for Virag’s page to participate in any previous lessons.
Virag and Jaggers, along with co-owner Armando Aseneta, are still teaching classes to the Sun City Ballroom Dance Club, albeit not in person. They record the classes every Wednesday for the 300 members to practice at home.
The studio’s regular dancers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the virtual classes. Virag said his friends from New York to Las Vegas, friends on a cruise ship in Australia, and friends back in his native Hungary have been dancing along with them.
“This thing is terrible,” Virag said about the coronavirus. “But in a way, it kind of brings people together. We laugh so much. … It’s cool how it reaches out to so many people around the world.”
Alliance Dance Academy is also reaching people in faraway places. Studio owner and director Rochelle Clarkson has been sharing video dance lessons with a special needs orphanage in Haiti called Footprints of the Son, which is run by one of her former students.
Alliance announced early on that they were going virtual and that their students would not be charged tuition until the studio reopens. While some of the dancers use Zoom to connect to their classes, pre-recorded classes are made available for others through an app called BAND.
Clarkson has also opened up the pre-recorded classes to the general public for free. To be added to the studio’s BAND pages, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the first time in its 35 years of existence, Hilton Head Dance School is teaching classes online instead of inside a studio. While it is a strange adjustment for everyone, the virtual classes seem to be working.
Katie Girardi, the school’s ballet mistress, said she has enjoyed seeing her older dancers rehearse “Swan Lake” from their living rooms, back porches and bedrooms. She also loved seeing the younger dancers jump and giggle with excitement when they got to see their friends in their first Zoom ballet class.
The Hilton Head school has loaned out most of its portable barres to the oldest dancers while others have purchased their own.
While virtual dance classes are not ideal, they are serving their purpose for the time being, offering consistency, exercise, socialization and joy to dancers during uncertain times. And although spring performances of “Terpsichore,” as well as the younger dancers’ performances of “Eloise” and “Terpsichore Too,” have been put on hold, dancers will continue rehearsing at home.
“Maybe life has taken a detour,” said Karena Brock-Carlyle, owner and artistic director of Hilton Head Dance School. “But we are not deterred. Costumes are still being made and the show will go on.”
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.