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Pandemic pushes dance instructors to teach more

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LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) – Classrooms look different this year, especially for dance classes.

Students in the performing arts classes at the University of Kansas have had to adapt to new safety procedures.

People may not be able to still dance together during a pandemic, but professors with the KU dance program say they’ll follow any CDC or university guidelines necessary to keep their groups of performers together.

Some of the modifications they’ve made include students and teachers wearing masks, and in some cases, ventilated face shields. Each dancer stays in their own 6-foot wide-space and wipes the space down before and after class.

Students can choose to learn in-person, through a livestream, or by watching videos of the instructor after class.

Hip-hop instructor Maya Tillman-Rayton told KCTV5 News that they have had to become their own audio and visual production teams.

“So a lot of it is just learning how to communicate differently so that everybody is getting the material,” she said.

They say some of the choreography is different to keep people from moving across the room or touching the floor too much.

Professor Michelle Hayes said teaching a flamenco class to in-person and online students is hard to balance.

“That makes me feel like a one-man band, the guy who’s got a tuba and an accordion,” she explained. “Teaching in those different modalities requires different skills.”

Tillman-Rayton is trying to make each class count, noting that, “a lot of it is just learning how to communicate differently so that everybody is getting the material.”

She also said distance learning and safety precautions slow down the speed of each class.

“Usually we come in and it’s nonstop from the moment you get in to class,” Tillman-Rayton explained. “Now we have to build in breaks because dancing with the masks presents a whole different challenge.”

The team says they will make any changes necessary to keep their students safe and together, and as Hays says, to keep them moving through this pandemic.

“For dancers, taking class is something like daily prayer.”

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