SERTA held its first virtual meeting, using Zoom, on Sunday 27th September 2020. Thirty–eight dance teachers and group organisers joined the meeting to hear four invited speakers talk about their experiences of maintaining engagement with their classes during the lockdown and since. The short presentations were followed by open discussion.
1.Welcome and introduction
Jane Rose, SERTA Chair, welcomed the meeting participants and speakers. She gave notice that the meeting was being recorded, following requests from members who could not attend it. Jane told the meeting that some dancing was taking place in continental Europe, held outdoors and without giving hands and that group dancing was also taking place in Guernsey whilst observing strict isolation if COVID cases occurred. She also reported that Andrew Kellett (RSCDS Chairman) had sent his best wishes to everyone and reported that voluntary arts groups including RSCDS and English Country Dancing had met with the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport to look at ideas about how to move forward https://www.voluntaryarts.org/News/response-to-dcms-guideline
2. Zsofi Jozsef and Phill Jones: Bo’ness Dance
Zsofi formed the Bo’ness Club in Scotland 2 years ago and the members were all beginners at that stage. When lockdown started, she and Phill looked at how they might continue class dancing onlineand this developed to a weekly class and a few ceilidhs. They use Facebook Live to run the classes, but also tried Messenger and Zoom. The online class is a Chat group and material is posted every week. To create the class content, Zsofi uses 2 cameras, one focussing on her feet, and two screens. Phill sorted out the technicalities of the equipment set-up and recording to make this all possible. Phill plays accordion to accompany Zsofi’s teaching. Dances such as “De’il amangthe tailors” were adapted to 3 couple sets for the purpose of the online classes. Considering the challenges of online classes, Zsofi’s main points were
•Online classes did not suit everyone because space and a certain amount of technical skill was neededfor the participants.
•The online class group had a very wide range of levels of dance skill, from beginners to teachers, so this had to be accommodated.
•Dances needed to be adapted to keep them short enough for interest and feasible to perform in a limited space
•The online classes attracted 10 participants from overseas•Classes covered 4-5 dances and lasted an hour
•There was time for chat at the endReflecting on the classes, Zsofi reminded everyone that it is important to keep in touch with all group members even if they cannot attend online classes.
Zsofi finished by suggesting that those who wanted to see the class activity should go to the Bo’ness dance page in Facebook https://www.facebook.com/bonessdance/
One teacher reported that her group had danced in gardens in the summer and have since held one class in the hall. She is using wands to avoid touching hands, with a bow on the end for safety, and maintain safe distancing. The class have responded well to using the wands and are very pleased to be able to see each other again. The teacher had started with a circle dance to get the dancers used to the wands and keeping distance. Jane Rose commented that a group in Europe have been using hooks to replace holding hands.
b. Limited dances and class sizes
One teacher reported that her group has held small classes for 1 hour, twice a week, for very keen dancers, held independently of their regular club as a private venture for those keen to resume. They found it necessary to avoid some formations such as crossing down and double figure of 8 round 2s. Amendments were also made to dances such as Culla Bay and Bon Viveur so that they were danced by 4 dancers and not 8, while other dances like Joie de Vivre were danced with ghosts. The dancers and teacher use visors. In all, 40 dances have been tried and tested for small group/restricted contact dancing. A question was raised about insurance for classes. The response was that halls are insured for social activity and that dancers take responsibility for their own safety, as with other independent bookings such as parties.
A planned dancing holiday was cancelled but the participants decided to continue with the holiday and held a limited amount of social dancing organised by themselves. Two sets of 3 couples had enough space to dance, with a gap between sets. Dances were chosen to avoid close formations and wider sets were used. Dancers also wore masks and did not touch other dancers. Recorded music was used.
d.Dancing classes in Paris
It was reported that most French groups had started classes again from the start of September, using masks and handwashing. Social distancing in France is 1 metre and there was not the restriction on numbers in groups that is in place in UK. Fewer dances are danced in classes and there is care about the type of dances performed. Infection rates are increasing in France and Paris has now stopped holding classes
.e.Mechanisms for making normal classes possible
•There was discussion about possibility of defining Scottish country dancing as a team sport to make it possible to resume classes.
•Availability of halls –some halls willing to let to dance groups as long as proposed safety measures are agreed and meet requirements at thetime.
•Class members -some members more willing than others to return to public classes
•Use of fans to increase distance between dancers
•Gloves versus handwashing: gloves increase awareness of touching things while uncovered hands can be more easily washed more frequently
•Visors –one teacher found them better for working with dancers who have hearing problems, worn in conjunction with a microphone below so that lip-reading is possible, (NB visors do not offer as much protection for either the wearer or those around them, not being closely fitted to the face.)
•Risk assessments -these were seen as important to document consideration of legal and health requirements.
•Economic matters –cost of hall may prevent resumption of dancing with small classes
The conclusion was that it was a local-level decision based on hall and group agreement about what was feasible and safe within the limits of prevailing restrictions.