Ask the Experts: Getting a Virtual Reality Camera

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Q: My school's audio-visual club director wants to go in with me on a virtual reality camera. Which ones do you suggest? How could I use it in class?


A: The cost of virtual reality cameras has dropped dramatically in the past couple of years, putting the technology in reach for dance teachers. These cameras allow you to take 360-degree panoramic photos or video.

Of the affordable cameras, the Ricoh Theta S generally gets good marks and is under $350. It comes with a companion app for your phone that allows you to control the camera and download photos and video right onto your phone. If your budget is lower, the LG 360, which I've seen for as little as $135, is comparable to the Theta S. If you're willing to spend more, the cameras in the $400–500 range seem to shoot higher-quality video.

Once you have the camera, the options are endless. Put it on a tripod in the middle of the classroom, and you'll have a video for absent students to watch and learn—just as if they were in class. I'm most excited by its choreography possibilities. How would your students construct a dance for an audience member inside the piece? Look for new, hands-free models coming out soon that function as eyewear. With those, you could record while dancing and reveal what it feels like to be the performer.

If you want to share your 360-degree videos, upload them to YouTube 360, a new feature from Google that allows you to share VR video. Anyone with a VR viewer can experience it, and Google Cardboard makes that possible with a simple version for as little as $15.


Teacher Voices
Photo courtesy Rhee Gold Company

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a shift in our community that is so impressive that the impact could last long into our future. Although required school closures have hit the dance education field hard, what if, when looking back on this time, we see that it's been an incredible renaissance for dance educators, studio owners and the young dancers in our charge?

How could that be, you ask?

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Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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