Okay, you’ve navigated the process and signed up for an online dance class, or classes, that you are really interested in. Your first class is coming up, and you’ve suddenly realized that you don’t know what to expect when you join, or what to bring when taking online dance classes.
Don’t panic! In the spirit of the five tips that we dropped about learning dance at home, here are some easy steps that you can take to get the most out of your online dance classes.
Make Yourself Comfortable
You are going to be moving. A lot. This means that you want to make sure that you have the best environment in which to do that, as well as the right clothes for the assignment. Clear a space that covers your range of motion. This means obstructions on the wall or ceiling, as well as the floor. And speaking of the floor, how is the surface? Is there enough traction for you to safely move around? Are there any obstacles or low pieces of furniture that need to be rearranged? Is it possible for you to fit a mirror to help you monitor your movement and form? These are all simple considerations that can be addressed before your first class.
As far as your wardrobe goes, start by wearing clothes that aren’t restrictive, but also aren’t so loose that they can wrap up your limbs or trip you up. Feel free to dress for the class—meaning, if you’re taking ballet classes, you might want to wear tights and a leotard. If it’s a hip-hop dance class, you might want to wear looser clothing like sweatpants and a favorite t-shirt. What’s most important is to choose something you’re comfortable in and that makes you feel good about moving your whole body.
Fill the Tank
Dance is exercise, which means your body will be exerting effort and it needs energy to do that! Different classes have different stamina, strength, and fitness requirements, and different bodies require different amounts of fuel. We have some tips for optimal energy intake, but remember that you know your body best!
Being well hydrated and full of energy will help you to perform your best in any online dance class. If you’re improperly hydrated, or didn’t eat well, or ate too much, you may have to interrupt your class to use the bathroom, or because you are cramping!
A good way to approach the nourishment situation is to eat a meal no sooner than two hours before the class, and to eat a smaller snack no closer than a half hour before the class. You can drink plenty of water, tea, coffee, or juice around the mealtime, and then restrict yourself to sips of water, or a watered-down sports drink right before and during class.
Nutrition and hydration are important before and after class, too. Muscle recovery relies on having enough fuel to restore what your body used up during your workout. Keep yourself hydrated throughout and after class with smaller maintenance sips of water. By an hour or two after the class you can resume your regular mealtime habits, albeit with the potential for an increased portion/calorie intake depending on the amount of energy spent during your exertions. Listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Some classes include warm-ups as a part of the course, but not all of them do so it’s often best to do your own warm-up before just in case. This also allows you to take care of your body the way you like to. Maybe you prefer to start with jumping jacks, foam rolling, or warming up your feet. Many online platforms, like CLI Studios, offer warm-up classes so if you’re not sure how to warm-up on your own, try one of those.
A tear or cramp at the wrong time can be devastating to student and dancer alike, and these injuries are often entirely avoidable. Warm-ups and cooldowns are some of the best ways to avoid and prevent future injuries. A cooldown is just as important as a warm-up, so if you have time after class, take some to do gentle movements and stretches and let your breath return to normal. This can help to delay or prevent muscle soreness, as well. When it comes to these before and after bookend periods, a little goes a long way towards keeping you healthy, in the right shape, and taking your experience to the next level.
Focus, Function, Feedback and Fun
Getting the most out of your classes means being a good student and absorbing as much information as possible, but it can also mean maximizing fun over everything else! What you want to get out of your dance class will depend on your individual goals. We’ll go through our top tips for an all-around good time in a dance class, but feel free to tailor this to the type of experience you want to have in class.
If you want to improve as a dancer, it’s helpful to zone in on what is being taught, what the instructor is specifically asking you to learn and focus on, and to reflect on how well you met that educational goal! This is where mirrors and video recording come in handy, as you can check what you look like as you move. Or, if you are trying to achieve a certain feeling as you dance, maybe putting the mirrors and technology away will be more helpful!
Your instructor is there to teach, and you are there to learn. One of the best ways to use the student-teacher relationship is to seek feedback! That means asking questions, observing your own work as well as the work of other students, and clarifying what needs working on. Learn to ask questions and definitely learn how to listen to answers. This feedback relationship is essential to building a cohesive online learning setting.
And most of all, make sure that you’re having fun. Challenge yourself, learn to work with others, but remember to enjoy the process.
Find Your Niche
Make sure to make the most of your online dance classes by picking one that fits your style. There are so many styles of dance to choose from, but chances are you know what you are interested in and what’s right for you. Identify your goals and preferred genre as a dancer, and choose a curriculum of courses that help develop those goals and styles. Retake a class as many times as you like to help you practice your technique as you master your developing repertoire of skills. The beauty of the online dance classroom is its versatility. You can move at your own pace, and come back to the same classes over and over again, however many times you need. Live classes with in person instructors can’t compare when it comes to the customized pacing and repeatability of your core classwork.