November 17, 2020
By Mary Ashley Ray
At the heart of Texas Ballet Theater’s community programming is CityDance, a 5-week series of introductory ballet classes for elementary-aged students. Since 2004, TBT instructors have visited elementary schools and community centers throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to provide these free classes, which are often a student’s first encounter with ballet.
As is the case with most programs in 2020, CityDance needed to shift in order to meet the changing needs of the community amid a pandemic and became a virtual program for the fall 2020 semester. Providing CityDance virtually allows all students in a class to participate, whether they are attending school in-person or learning from home.
The curriculum and goals of the program remained the same, but the CityDance team implemented several changes to continue delivering their top-notch instruction and experience. The team slightly shortened the class time to help maximize student engagement and focus in a virtual setting. Additionally, both students and instructors are working in smaller spaces than before, now dancing from their homes or classrooms instead of a space like a gym.
“Our perception of space as it relates to some ballet movements has been altered a bit,” Joshua Barr, Educational Programs Coordinator, said. “Movements that would traditionally be categorized as traveling movements have had to be reimagined as more stationary.”
Interacting through screens instead of in-person can make interpersonal connection more challenging as well, but the virtual format does allow for some special perks to help make those connections. For example, each participating class gets a visit from a TBT Company Dancer. Patricia Bochnak, CityDance Instructor, recounts the day Paige Nyman visited one of her classes.
“Paige took the class with us, demonstrating for all the students, and we had a great question and answer session at the end,” Patricia said. “The students were enamored by her and it was such a great experience for everyone.”
With all the changes in the world in 2020, the TBT team was determined to continue sharing ballet with students in the community. Switching to a virtual program has allowed students to learn and move creatively, regardless of where and how they currently attend school. With the end of the fall semester in sight, the team looks forward to sharing ballet with even more students in the spring.