Teachers and performers, many of whom are freelancers in the concert-based economy, are losing much-needed income. Those who supplement their dance income with low-wage work “are going to be doubly affected as it drags on,” says Debra Cash, executive director of the Boston Dance Alliance. “Whether they work as a temp or cashier, in restaurants or in roles in the community that take care of the body… many are not eligible for unemployment.”
But the Greater Boston dance community isn’t let down. Even though organizations such as the Boston Dance Alliance, the Boston Artist Relief Fund, Dance / USA, MassCreative, Americans for the Arts, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council are looking for ways to provide a silver lining for financial assistance, dance studios and independent teachers are finding ways to keep classes going. Using Zoom, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, Google Hangout, even Skype, they broadcast live from their living room and basement, with just a computer, tablet or phone. The stylistic range of offers is remarkable – from contemporary (Project31dance.org) to jazz (MassMotion.com) and flamenco (LSFlamenco.com), country western dance (JKDance.com) to Dancing with Parkinson’s disease (Urbanitydance.org), to a range of ballet, hip-hop, tap and somatic practices. Some, like MiniMoversStudio.com and BallroominBoston.comthe Facebook page of, offer offers adapted to young children.
Many courses are open to all and free; some are intended for beginners. Live streaming lessons often allow participants to see each other and perhaps ask questions, with teachers offering guidance.
Boston University ballet teacher Margot Parsons broadcasts lessons from her personal library and does loops with her regular accompanist, who performs some of the lessons from her living room in Brookline. “The pianist and I can communicate, and the students can follow the bar and center work,” says Parsons. “I can even make individual corrections. ”
New England’s busiest multi-genre installation, The Dance Complex in Cambridge, offers its teachers the ability to stream lessons live via the organization’s Instagram channel (Instagram.com/thedancecomplex), improving visibility and access. Cambridge Community Arts Center (cccaonline.org) launches its interactive online video / distance learning and teaching platform to enable “students to attend remotely and faculty members to teach wherever they are at ease,” said President and Executive Artistic Director Dan Yonah Marshall. The organization offers its Online A / V Streaming Setup to the larger dance community as well.
Other studios follow suit and in some cases expand the offer. Adam Spencer from Cape Cod Ballroom Dance (Adaminchatham.com) adds musical theater workshops for young people as well as online lectures ranging from anatomy to music theory in addition to community classes. “I want to ensure that children and adults all over the world have the opportunity and the free access to dance,” he says.
This could be a perfect opportunity to try something new – salsa, hip-hop, a folk dance, a ballet barre using the back of a chair. And if anyone in your household is playing, explore the foxtrot or tango together. YouTube has a plethora of instructional videos, and experts say learning new movement sequences can help keep the brain sharp and the body flexible.
Dance Church, which runs freely guided free-form classes for community dance in cities around the world, now programs live virtual experiences on Go.dancechurch.com. Over 900 participants joined the first course. At the third class last Sunday, there were over 3,600 participants. (Listening to the research, I was almost immediately put on my feet.)
The BostonDanceAlliance.org blog offers continuous newsletters, and anyone can sign up for the organization’s newsletter. Two Facebook sites – Boston dancers and choreographers and Boston Dance Community – serve as real-time bulletin boards for dance information.
For those looking for a go-to source for local class listings, Callie Chapman’s new site Artist2Artist.org aims to fill the void. A handful of live classes – Haitian dance taught by Jean Appolon is one of them – are now listed there, with some suggesting small donations via Venmo.
Chapman, a Somerville-based dancer and artistic director of Studio at 550, hopes the site can grow to serve as a platform for Greater Boston’s listings, and is considering a signup tool that makes payment or donations easier to help with keep initiatives afloat and dance.
“In a way, it’s like baby steps for dancers to engage in different ways with their communities,” Chapman said, “so that hopefully when we all get back to the studio the classes will have more students in the future – the community will grow exponentially.
Karen Campbell can be reached at [email protected]