Teaching Tips

Augmented Reality for Dance Class? Yup, and It's a Useful Tool

Q: I'm looking for out-of-the-box teaching tools to use with my students. Do you have any recommendations?


A: Augmented reality is a form of technology that presents some interesting teaching opportunities for dance educators. Examples of augmented reality that may be familiar to you include IKEA's AR catalog app, in which users can visualize how certain pieces of furniture would look in their homes by superimposing virtual versions of beds and couches onto images of their rooms. Or, Pokémon GO, where users see 3-D Pokémon on their phone screens as if they were in the same physical location as the player.

Dance teachers can make their own augmented reality in class with free apps like HP Reveal. This app allows you to superimpose images onto other videos, websites or photos on the screen of your phone or tablet.

For instance, teachers could create a dance scavenger hunt by virtually overlaying dance pictures or videos in specific locations around your school or town. Using GPS, your students can find locations where you've left virtual content, point the cameras of their phones at them and view the photos and videos you have left there as they pop up on the screens of their devices. Going on a field trip to a museum? Go earlier to set up an interactive activity for your students ahead of time. For example, if you were going to a Degas exhibit, you could create a video about his relationship to dance and virtually place it on top of one of his paintings. When your students scan over the painting with their devices, they can see the video you've created to supplement their learning.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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