In March, Colorado Ballet Society joined the rest of the nation in a mandatory stay-at-home order, temporarily closing their physical doors for classes and rehearsals. Over their two-week Spring Break, they designed and implemented a brand-new online education and coaching program for ages 2.5 and up called CBS On Pointe, officially launching on April 1. As Ballet Society adheres to the statewide recommendations for social distancing, they will continue to offer online classes, education, and coaching to ensure that their dancers (current, new, and visiting) are able to engage and learn during this time.
“Parents and dancers have made a significant investment in training, and we would like the opportunity to preserve and advance that investment,” explains Ballet Society founder and director, Patricia Hoffman. “It's important physically, mentally, and emotionally to keep up with one's skills, progress, and growing artistry. We are fully embracing our virtual opportunities to deepen our connections, and CBS teachers are here to connect in so many ways with our community of dancers through CBS On Pointe.”
“I am incredibly proud of the quality CBS On Pointe is providing,” shares Ballet Society instructor Bethanny Jorenby. “Truth be told, I wasn't sure what sort of quality we'd be able to provide online, but have been continually amazed at the excellence I'm seeing roll out of this program.”
“While the circumstances are less than ideal, I have loved working with the faculty and staff at Colorado Ballet Society to develop this online program,” says Ballet Society instructor Amy Schaefer. “The knowledge, experience and creativity the team possesses has allowed us to bring to life a robust online curriculum in a very short amount of time.”
CBS On Pointe contains 16 Google Classrooms and offers instruction in 12 different levels in various dance styles including ballet, pointe, tap, contemporary, jazz, hip hop, character, stretch, conditioning, and cardio. With space restrictions in mind, Ballet Society instructors record themselves and/or student demonstrators (when state requirements allow) in the various dance classes and levels.
New class instruction videos are released on designated days of the week in the corresponding levels of Google Classroom, and all dancers enrolled in the classroom have access to the videos. In this way, dancers can continue their regimen of training for as many weeks as Ballet Society is required to be closed. Dancers can retake any of the classes in Google Classroom as often as they’d like, giving the dancer and family full autonomy over their schedule. This program also allows students the freedom to try new classes that they may not have been registered for during the regular year.
“I think we chose a wise platform for offering classes during this time,” shares Jorenby. “CBS researched and considered a lot of different ideas before deciding how we would venture into online classes. Our pre-filmed classes and exercises give students the ability to take class as their schedule allows and a device is available. We often have siblings in two or more different classes at the same time, so trying to schedule live classes would have been a logistical nightmare for many families with kids and parents vying for available screens.”
“My favorite part of the program is the opportunity for individual customization,” shares Schaefer. “When we are in the studio, teachers work hard to ensure we meet each student’s needs. The online program allows us to go even further. Students who need to hear instructions more than once can listen again. Students who need to see a sequence before trying it can watch first. When students encounter a difficult skill, they can stop and practice as long as they need.”
In addition to class instruction videos, registered families receive Petite Dance Chat videos, two-three minutes in length through Google Classroom, which focus on technique, corrections, and tips to support the dancer's training and help provide more focused artistic instruction for each and every registered dancer. Ballet Society’s faculty also provide registered families with discussions of relevant content and additional dance activities. Their youngest dancers receive fun instructional worksheets and story time. Ballet Society is also arranging for registered students to receive dancechats with professionals in the industry through Google Classroom, starting with Ballet Society alumni and former guest faculty. Students will have an opportunity to send questions to the guest speaker before the chats are recorded from around the world. This is the perfect opportunity to obtain first-hand knowledge about the dance world and students will benefit from the insight and experience of these professionals.
“The program offers so much more than just a typical class!” exclaims Jorenby. “Students have access to a plethora of activities geared towards their specific age and ability level: activity packets that are both fun and educational; petite dance chats with tips, advice, creativity exercises, and career exploration; story times; goal-setting activities; and 1-on-2 video meetings with teachers. All this is included in tuition rates, which Ms. Patty has steeply discounted to help families during this time.”
Registered students are also able to participate in two 1-on-2 video instructional meetings with their teacher each month for each dance form they are registered for. The live meetings are 15-minutes in length and occur through Google Hangouts by appointment (with Google Forms). One 15-minute session is the equivalent of one hour of in-class instruction. Dancers receive personalized instruction, advice, and homework exercises to improve their technique and artistry. This is the perfect way to ensure that each student keeps progressing week-to-week and returns stronger, despite the closure.
“Our 1-on-2 virtual meetings allow teachers to give personal learning plans to each student,” explains Schaefer.
“Of course, students can't improve without specific corrections from a teacher,” says Jorenby. “This small meeting size, compared to a live online class where you risk dancers becoming just tiny squares, allows teachers to see each student's work clearly and offer corrections and encouragement. I'm also impressed with the emphasis the studio is providing in regards to internet safety for our students, using video platforms with end-to-end encryption and requiring certain dance attire be worn for modesty while using these platforms.”
Tuition is currently reduced by 35% for online instruction. If a family would like to make a contribution beyond their 65% tuition, it is used for a family that cannot currently afford tuition. Ballet Society then matches any donations for tuition. This not only allows current Ballet Society dancers to continue with their training if they don’t have the means, but donations have also enabled CBS On Pointe to reach around the world to a family in Italy, benefitting the world dance community as a whole.
“Our director, Patty Hoffman, is working incredibly hard to ensure we all have jobs and students to come back to, which in turn inspires each of us teachers to give this program everything we've got,” explains Jorenby. “Our teachers are honing new skills, developing new materials, and pouring hours and hours into filming and editing classes and creating extra class materials. I feel incredibly supported as an instructor: we're being offered continued online training opportunities, technical support is available whenever we need it, we get world-class advice on what to focus on in our instructional videos, and are given space to be creative in our teaching. That sort of environment and leadership from not only Patty, but also our various division managers, admin staff, and media/tech coordinators trickles down from the top and into our online classrooms.”
“As the parent of both advanced and basic CBS dancers we spend quite a few hours at the studio each week,” shares Ballet Society parent Raquel Worf. “When my family heard the news that CBS would have to temporarily suspend classes due to COVID-19 we were deeply saddened, but had faith that Ms. Patty and her staff would do everything they could to help their students continue to grow in their dance. The CBS On Pointe program has exceeded our expectations! Not only do my kids have the opportunity and flexibility to work on their technique in the classes they are registered for, they also receive video instruction for all of the available classes in their dance level. They are able to replay the videos as often as they would like to and hear their instructors’ encouraging words. If a particular combination is more challenging, they can pause the video and work specifically on what they need to. Even though they are working in a smaller space at home they have the ability to work on refining their technique for when they do get to return to in-person classes. CBS On Pointe has allowed my dancers to maintain connection with their teachers and a sense of normalcy in uncertain times.”
“Our family has dancers in all different levels and the CBS On Pointe program has far exceeded our expectations for an online dance curriculum- especially considering the circumstances where our everyday normal changed so quickly,” explains Ballet Society parent Alyssa Radzicki. “They could have stopped at just creating weekly content but they are also providing age appropriate activities, journal prompts, and dance chats as a way to still be engaged with their students. They are even providing a “moms classroom” with workout classes and additional resources to share with our dancers. The entire staff is constantly finding ways to provide more to their CBS families and it has helped our family to not feel so alone during this time.”
As the Stay-At-Home order lifts on Monday, April 27, dance studios will remain closed as they fall under the State Government’s umbrella definition of Gymnasiums.
“Currently, a timeline for re-opening gyms in our state has not been released,” shares Hoffman. “We are monitoring updates from CPHDE daily to determine a possible timeline for resuming in-person classes. We anticipate solely continuing CBS On Pointe through mid-May and hope we will be able to also begin offering privates in our studio but are awaiting safety guidelines. When we are able to open our doors and offer in-person classes, it will most-likely be at 50% occupancy, so CBS On Pointe will remain a wonderful option for families in the weeks, and possibly months, ahead.”
“I deeply miss teaching in person but I am very excited about the possibilities CBS On Pointe brings to our dancers!” says Schaefer.
“While nothing can replace an in-class experience, this program is, hands down, the best option I've seen for quality dance education during this time. Students and families are getting more than they'd expect while supporting a local business and teachers. It's a win-win situation!” exclaims Jorenby.
Figure 1: Colorado Ballet Society Students | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 2: Natatia Warzabluk, former Colorado Ballet Society Student currently dancing with Ballett Zürich | PC: Joel Hawkins
Figure 3: Colorado Ballet Society student, Hailey Ryan taking Ms. Amy’s class | PC: Kelly Ryan
Figure 4: Colorado Ballet Society students, Tadros Girls helping their youngest sister take online class | PC: Llana and Michael Tadros
Figure 4: Colorado Ballet Society student, Gracie Mientka taking online class | PC: Gracie Mientka
Figure 5: Colorado Ballet Student, Hailey Henn taking online class |PC: Melanie Henn
Figure 6: Colorado Ballet Society student, Lily Sato taking class | PC Jessica Sato
Figure 7: Colorado Ballet Society student, Hailey Ryan taking online class | PC: Kelly Ryan
Figure 8: Colorado Ballet Society student, Gracie Mientka taking online class | PC: Gracie Mientka