Quarantine. Day 5.
This past Wednesday we attempted our first ever virtual rehearsal using an app called zoom. It's not ideal, but during uncertain times like these when social interaction is at a low... it was really wonderful to still be able to have our outlet. ...How did it go? I would say "Fun with room for improvement." Here's how we did it:
Create an account and schedule a meeting. Copy the link and share it with our dancers with instructions of when & how to join in. Zoom is available via PC, Mac, Apple or Android. Users aren't required to create an account, but may need to download the app.
Gather content. Since we are a part time company who only meets once a week for rehearsals, we make sure to record the latest rehearsals so dancers can use them to practice at home. This came in pretty handy when running a virtual review class. I also downloaded a pre-recorded group warm up (sent to us compliments of Emily Bufferd - pictured above).
Practice using the app. Make sure you get a few friends, or in our case board members, to jump on a practice meeting so you can figure out all the features. Here's our tips or what worked best for us:
>> Gallery View:
Up at the top, there are different view modes. We used the gallery mode so we were able to see up to 25 dancers at once. If you are teaching and want all users to see your video as the main video (or another dancer) you can click on the 3 dots and select SPOTLIGHT VIDEO. This will change the view for everyone.
>> Sharing Video:
We tried a few different options for playing videos and music to find out what the least glitchy option was. In our case, it was having the videos downloaded and playing the file directly through screen share (make sure to check the boxes to share sound and optimize for video).
When we first started the meeting, we kept everyone's microphones on so we could chat and get everyone settled. Once we needed to focus on instruction or the rehearsal videos we selected "Mute All" from the Manage Participants tab to avoid distracting background noises. Using thumbs up, thumbs down visual responses worked great. At the end of each run, we would un-mute so we could ask and answer questions about the choreography.
Music was a big challenge because the app was obviously not built to host virtual dance classes. What we figured out AFTER the class, was to disable the advanced audio settings on Zoom that suppress background noise, and to play music in the background on a separate source (bluetooth speaker, etc) with reduced bass and treble levels so it's picked up better by the microphone.
This is a feature we also figured out AFTER our last rehearsal that we will try to integrate in our next classes. (To enable go into the Zoom account settings on your PC/Mac.) What this does is during one session, you can separate and assign the users into different "break rooms". This way, we can run 2 rehearsals within one meeting and the host/director is able to jump back and forth between them to make sure everything is going well. I can also send a temporary "broadcast message" to everyone, no matter what group they're in, for things like "10 minutes left".
Option to Record. When you begin your meeting, you will see in the controls you have the option to record your meeting/class/rehearsal. You can choose to record all, or parts of the rehearsal, and have the video saved to the cloud or directly to your device. This way your dancers are able to re-take or re-watch parts of the class or rehearsal at a later time.
We hope this helps any studio owner, company director, or dance teacher who is trying to keep things going and continue to keep dance alive for their dancers! If you have any tips or tricks that you've discovered... please share them with us! #KeepDancing