Despite an empty studio, a canceled spring performance and students in quarantine, rather than temporarily close its doors completely, the West Hawaii Dance Theatre & Academy is adjusting to stay-at-home measures with unconventional methods.
Before the state’s stay-at-some order, the dance studio was quick to adapt to the new reality of social distancing by hosting its first live dance class via social media. A class typically attended by ten people attracted over 150 dancers of all ages from across the United States, with a few checking in from Europe as well, an incredible accomplishment for this small, non-profit studio on the Big Island of Hawaii.
With the successful reception and positive feedback, West Hawaii Dance was encouraged to keep moving forward, though the live streaming format was less than ideal for the studio’s hand-on approach. Videoconferencing became a logical next step. “Our studio offers professional instruction with a personal touch, so we wanted to incorporate a format where we can see the students as if they’re in the studio with us. Instructors are able to then offer individualized pointers and feedback,” says Ms. Virginia Holte, Founder and Artistic Director.
Feedback has been extremely positive. After a short trial run of videoconferencing select classes, students and parents came forward immediately, expressing their heartfelt thanks and appreciation for the efforts in maintaining the classes and instruction: “All I have to say is, ‘Thank you!!’ Compared to other studios, you guys were on top of it getting zoom classes set up immediately! … I’m just overall incredibly grateful for the opportunity to take them!!”
An added benefit of the videoconferencing is that distant alumni have been able to reunite with the studio, and new students have enrolled to experience a new educational approach or the unique experience of dancing “in Hawaii.”
“While there are many studios and dancers live-streaming or posting YouTube videos, opportunities for personalized instruction are less common,” reports Ms. Holte, who has found that her private lesson instruction time has increased since the quarantine began. “At the end of the day, we just want to maintain a sense of normalcy for our students as much as we can. Many of our students find that dance offers an outlet for stress and we just can’t take that away from them when they need it the most.”
Currently, the West Hawaii Dance Theatre and Academy is offering 16 classes online including Ballet, Beginning Adult Tap, Body Conditioning and Strengthening, and Pilates. The videoconferencing class schedule can be found at whdt.org/dance-from-home. To inquire about scheduling a private lesson email [email protected] For more information about West Hawaii Dance Theatre’s offerings visit whdt.org or call (808) 217-6103.
Photos: Joey A. Marshall