remote dance class
Kristen Shaw has had a career in video production for a decade. From casting to programming to production to editing, Kristen’s seen it all. She honed her skills working in live sports, and while Kristen’s primary career is in video production, she’s created a second career for herself in dance.
Currently one of Kristen Shaw’s personal goals is to help “raise the production quality of the videos in the West Coast Swing world.” Recently Kristen hosted an online event to share her insight.
How to Make Your Videos Not Suck 101 was a Facebook Live event crafted to help artists and instructors better their online dance videos. Here are some great tips from Kristen Shaw for leveling up your livestream online dance class:
Solve your issues before they happen with pre-production work
- Research: Google is your friend. Kristen figures out a lot of her technical questions just by Googling them. If she had issues during production she’ll also use Google after the fact so she can level up her next broadcast or recording session.
- Testing: Test, test, test! TEST AGAIN, TEST ONE MORE TIME. You might feel like it’s over-kill but if you can catch issues with audio or internet connection before you go live, you’ll save yourself some stress.
- Plan: Write out a flow for your stream or video and know the timing. This is an important step regardless of whether it’s a live video or a video you’re shooting and editing.
Get your gear ready
- Camera: You don’t have to have fancy new tech to get rolling, but at the very least you should shoot in a 1920 x 1080 aspect ratio. Fortunately, this is often the standard for modern smartphones, DSLRs, and most camcorders. You should also make sure your lens is clear – simply take a cloth to it and wipe it clean. Keep in mind that camera position is important! You don’t want to be looking down at your audience or to cut off the top of your head. It’s usually best to orient the camera so that the video is horizontal and to utilize a tripod so you have a stable shot.
- Lighting: Three-point lighting is often ideal. You want to have a light in front of you to light your face, a light to fill in the side of your face if it is too dark on the side, and a backlight to give you depth as well as to separate you from your backdrop. Try to make sure your lighting colors match. Mismatched lights can be distracting.
- Sound: In an ideal world you’d have an external microphone, which would create a clearer sound than just recording it directly through your device. Kristen recommends a lavalier microphone, which you can buy pretty cheap (in the ballpark of $15). If you’re capturing sound with an external microphone for editing post-production one easy option is via an app you can download called Voice Recorder Pro. Also, be cautious about loud clothing. Certain materials can cause audio disturbances.
- Internet/Software: Make sure you’re by your router and that it can handle streaming. You may also need to invest in software if you’re streaming it to multiple places. The software OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) can help you control more sources of audio while streaming.
- Be ready early: In the production world being on time is being late!
- Keep it movin’: Know how you plan on entering and exiting your material. Be aware of timing. Have a clock near you or have someone keep track of time.
- Presentation style: Know who you are and be true to it. Audiences can sense fake a mile away.
- Interactions: On livestream, engage with the chat and questions. It makes people feel valued and helps you keep the pulse on what people want to know.
- When things go wrong: Things will go wrong. Keep calm and know you are likely panicking more than anyone else. Sometimes you’re the only one that realizes there’s a problem. If it was a big mishap, acknowledge it and move on. If it was small, brush it off.
Thoughts for Post-Production
- Recap: Be honest with yourself and have a conversation with those you trust to find out what worked and what didn’t. There is room to grow in any situation, even if things go well. Don’t take criticism as a personal attack!
- Editing: If you choose to edit your video, you’ll need editing software. Kristen primarily uses Adobe Premier, but it is a little bit of an investment and there are plenty of other, less expensive editing software options out there. When editing, music choice is important. Make sure your music matches the mood of the video! Kristen recommends AudioJungle as a cost-effective place to purchase royalty-free music. If you add text graphics, consider the screen size your audience might be watching on. Thin text doesn’t really work as well for video. Thicker text that is clean and easy to read often works best.
- Be open to growth: Just start somewhere. Kristen Shaw often stopped before she started because she held herself to a standard that was impossible to achieve with what she had at hand. But don’t stress it – you can improve each time. Don’t stand in your own way.
Do you want to learn more about Kristen Shaw’s experience as an editor, dancer, and creator? Check out her website!
Want even more tips from experienced dance teachers about how to make better online dance classes? Read this article on 7 Things to Consider Before Hosting an Online Dance Class!
2020 has presented the world with many logistical challenges to overcome. If you are a dance teacher who can not currently teach in a studio you may be considering teaching dance classes online. Check out these 7 tips for hosting livestream classes to help you ease the transition into becoming an online dance teacher.
1. Your interactions with students will be different. This is a no brainer – of course it’ll be different!
New York swing dance teacher Stina Dallons explains how:
“It’s weird going from a teacher that is hands on. If I’m doing something and I look behind and I notice that someone else isn’t doing it correctly I can be like “No no no no, not that. Pick up your foot, put it down.” Now I have to wait for an emote. I’m waiting for a thumbs up or a heart.”
Feedback will likely come from students’ emotes or typed comments, which can be a challenge to monitor while you’re instructing. It’s a good idea to consider this factor when planning your lesson.
2. Time is relative. This one is simple but easy to forget at first. Not everyone who wants to take your online dance class lives in your region of the world. Always remember to specify the time zone when promoting your class!
3. Your livestream platform matters. Think about what is most important to you when you’re choosing a platform to teach on. Do you want your livestream to stay up until you take it down? Want access to your class to be for paying students only or open to everyone? Do you want to be able to see your students?
Consider your priorities and do a little research before that first lesson.
Know that you don’t have to stick to just one platform. Dance Break facilitator Jess Grippo uses multiple platforms.
“I open up a Zoom room. People can join if they want to see me and each other and allow me to see them. They join the Zoom room and then I broadcast the Zoom room to Facebook, but you can take part in it through Zoom if you want.”
4. Communicate requirements. How much floor space is needed for the class? Do students need a bar? A mirror? A partner? Is there a cost for the lesson? Are students required to download an app to participate in your online dance class?
Make sure to specify any important information before you begin the class.
5. Consider collaborations. Roger and Mané Plaut like to teach livestream ballet classes as a couple.
“We find it’s easier to teach together for the online classes because there are so many different things to think about to make sure it’s all working properly. You have to make sure that the video feed is going out, that the sound quality is good, that the music can be heard, and you have to try to respond to people’s comments if they’re having problems.”
Additionally, during demonstrations, one faces the camera while the other faces away from it. Their students like to see both front and back views. People also enjoy watching the couple interact with each other during the lesson. It adds a little extra flavor to their dance class.
If you can’t physically collaborate with another dance teacher consider virtual collabs. Think about reaching out to other online instructors to cross-promote your online dance classes.
6. Test Your tools first. Fast internet connection and the right video equipment are both important factors for a successful livestream session. Roger and Mané experienced lag-time in the beginning but were able to fix the problem by upgrading their router. A good webcam or a smartphone with a high-quality camera is often essential for video.
Through trial and error, Lindy Hop and Balboa teacher Laura Keat found that her webcam was unable to keep up with her footwork. “Sometimes when we danced if we moved too fast the movement could be blurred whereas my iPhone camera is better for movement.”
Audio is a factor as well. If the mic on your camera isn’t picking up your voice well you might need to invest in an external microphone.
7. Promote your class in advance. Give people the opportunity to plan to take your dance class! Many teachers create a Facebook event page prior to the class and invite students, friends, and family. You can then share the event page to relevant Facebook groups. Some teachers even create their own Facebook group for their lessons. This can create a sense of community with your students or can be used as a medium to hype your classes. Got an email list? Send out a newsletter with your class dates!
There are many things to consider before teaching an online dance class, but there are some things you won’t know until you try! Planning is important but it’s okay to be flexible and change things as you learn.
For a little inspiration check out our Epic Online Dance Classes article.