Zoom Dancing Discoveries

Zoom Dancing Discoveries

It is over a year since dance studios, village halls and theatres closed, and my most significant relationship became with Zoom (other video conferencing applications are available but ‘Zoom’ has become the widely accepted noun and verb). It is how I ‘go’ to meetings, I have celebrated my second Zoom birthday, and Zoom has kept me dancing. EncoreEast began its on-line life with weekly chats, then classes and then projects, and Zoom was instrumental in keeping us together and keeping us active. It has kept me connected to family, friends and fellow dancers. 

We all take in information in different ways and Zoom probably suits some learning styles more than others. I can feel as close, or even closer, to people on Zoom than in socially distanced real life. In the early day of lock-down the novelty of being able to take class with artists and companies anywhere in the world was exciting, but pre-recorded videos soon lost their lustre. Being able to see other people in the class lessened the sense of isolation and knowing I can be seen makes me work harder. Luckily, I have a largish dancing space with no animals or other people to distract or complain, and with less going out and no travelling I can fit in lots more dancing.

Zoom has democratised lots of activities. It has made it possible to participate in classes that would otherwise be closed to company members, or too far away, or difficult to access in other ways. It is inspiring to dance alongside professionals and EncoreEast has been able to engage teachers who would probably not be keen to travel to Ipswich. I have also been able to take part in a wider range of projects, such as the New Adventures’ Play Without Words with people based across the country and Protein’s Sun Inside project with people from around the world. It has democratised the process and meaning of dance-making too. Some of my favourite on-line works have highlighted the creativity of dancers, such as New Adventures’ The Red Shoes at Home and Australian Ballet’s take-off of Giselle. Both featured dancers creating and filming themselves in their own homes, as EncoreEast did for Me, My Body and I.

There are frustrations and downsides. Zoom cannot be blamed for unstable internet connections or user error, and there are certain etiquettes that we are discovering by accident. To an extent, this is a further process of democratisation, anyone can mess up and anyone can solve a problem, it is peer learning in action.

The lack of depth and peripheral vision make it harder to follow the teacher.  I am not sure about the best solution to the mirroring problem. When I turn this function off I appear to be going the same way as everyone but I don’t recognise me or the landmarks in the room that I rely on for orientation. Would it help if there was a ‘mirror everyone’ function so you could imagine looking in a mirror in a studio?

What difference will a year of Zoom dancing make? I feel more confident about improvising and have enjoyed choreographing with a focus on gesture and the small stuff. Recording is a great tool for seeing what works and remembering what’s been done. It has not been a wasted year of none-dancing but one of discoveries and surprises.  I hope we can keep the useful and learn from the rest.

By Jeanette Siddall