In this article I’d like to share some tips to have the best online learning experience with an online movement class like bellydance.
Set Up Your Space
The first important part is the setup. Here are my suggestions for the best online class experience:
View the class on a big screen – your mobile phone or laptop won’t cut it. To see all the movement details, stream to an external monitor that is at least 27". Try to get your own screen for this so other persons in your household are not waiting around to watch something on tv.
Set you camera such that your whole body can fit in the shot, and make sure the lighting is behind the camera, not behind you. That way the teacher can see your body clearly. Even if the teacher can't see you, it is a good practice to film yourself dancing, even if only for a minute or two. You learn a lot from watching the footage and seeing how you actually look compared to how you thought you looked. It helps you figure out what aspects of your dance to work on, and you’ll have material you can send to your teacher privately for feedback, or to post if you dare.
External speakers. If you stream to a TV, the sound is usually good. But if not you can use another device for high quality sound output. In a dance class the teacher has carefully selected the music so it matters that you hear it properly, and can control the sound level so you can also hear what the teacher is saying. It makes a real difference to the feeling of being there in the class.
Hard wire your internet connection where possible and if necessary bump other users off. Streaming usually works smoother through a hard wired connection. You may also consider upgrading your internet package.
Prepare your space! You need a space that’s big enough to dance in – if you can safely do a 3–step turn or some arabesques while swirling a veil, that should be enough space. Try to fix up the space so you would enjoy dancing there. At the studio in person, an environment has been created for you. Online you have to be a bit more proactive and create it yourself. Clear the space of any unwanted items. You can light a scented candle or incense, decorate a bit, and have your dance items like hip scarf, veils, finger cymbals, exercise mat and notebook ready on hand. Social
Now, for the social aspect – you have to deliberately interact with the social media tools provided by the studio. That’s what builds community.
So here is a simple suggestion – like, comment, post.
Just like in the physical world you have to hold up your end of the conversation or the atmosphere becomes very dry. Try something light, like a compliment or simple question related to the class content. For example:
Maybe you liked the music or what the teacher was wearing.
Maybe you struggled with/were inspired/surprised/confused by a particular movement and were wondering if others had the same reaction.
Maybe you were reminded of something funny or interesting.
Posting can be a bit tricky, because you have interests outside of bellydance, but you don’t want to go off-topic. The safest things are stuff about you personally, in relation to dance.
Do you have pets that try to practice with you?
Did you get a new hipscarf, or rediscover an old favorite? Where did you get it? Why is it special?
Did you have an Aha! moment during practise?
Share that stuff. Let people get to know you. If you observe your own thoughts these ideas come naturally, but online the chance to censor ourselves before we speak can result in missed opportunities for meaningful interaction.
So you have to be deliberate and take a few minutes to like, comment and post something when you visit the online studio. If you are part of the studio, it’s because you are wanted there and your contribution matters. These are really important skills to practise as we live in a world where more and more of the things we did in person are moving online.
For our sanity we need social inclusion despite the physical distancing.