Through these recent perilous times, it is fitting to credit our “front line troops,” be they doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, charities dispensing food, or take out delivery drivers. Certainly, we all need to eat and maintain our health. However, what about those “nonessential” intangibles that help us not only exist but feel happy, challenged, and fulfilled? Think about hobbies and skills many of us have practiced and mastered through sometimes years of practice.
As a lifelong dance enthusiast, I’ve always felt a lift from learning new steps. Sometimes there were physical setbacks for other reasons, but even if I missed classes for months or years, I always returned. Luckily culture has evolved so much in South Florida that on any given day or night, students of ten different dances can find a class at their level without driving more than twenty minutes. While years ago I travelled to Miami for culture, there is now such a proliferation of studios that competition in the area has become fierce.. My passion for the last ten years has been Latin dances, and I frequent studios teaching salsa, cha-cha, bachata, merengue, and tango.
Although Florida’s shutdown has seemed like an eternity, it was only in March that all businesses began panicking about COVID19. Everything happened so fast that some dance teachers did not even have time to e-mail students or clients. Naturally, I first contacted my long term teacher, who felt that after a week to enact more sanitation measures, students could return. He was wrong. Another studio that I attended less frequently sent messages that instruction would continue with masks but without partner work. Several hours later, though, that same studio had to concede that according to emergency state law, their services were not deemed necessary, and their two locations would have to close indefinitely.
It did not take that second, younger facility long, though, to meet the challenges of this deadly pandemic. Only twenty four hours passed before they notified all students that they were remaining in business, albeit virtually. They offered webinars, live video classes where students can chat with each other while also alerting teachers of any glitches we encounter during the hour. This studio, Casa Salsa in Fort Lauderdale, did not only attempt one class per night, but usually two or three. Offerings are beginning, intermediate, and advanced salsa, bachata, and cha- cha. I waited two more weeks, hoping that the virus would die down, then enrolled. Each day is separate, and I registered for two classes the morning of my first day. For one class daily or three, the cost is $7.00, an incredible deal. After paying for the first day, though, I discovered even more benefits:
- I easily saved an hour and a half by eliminating getting dressed for the evening. There was no extra shower to take or make up to apply. Students can see the teacher, but the reverse is not true. We can all message each other online, though.
- Two more time and money savers were no gas or travel time necessary. The two together sometimes require twenty additional dollars and up to forty minutes with traffic. Instead, I simply walked through my living room to the bedroom and turned on the computer, checking into the studio venue with my daily passcode.
- At 7 P.M., I see the instructor in her home and type greetings to other students’ names that I recognize.
- Soon after, the teacher begins by thanking us all for supporting the business during this pandemic. Then the music and isolation warm up exercises create a familiar and relaxing atmosphere.
- It is far easier to see what the teacher is doing without fifteen other students in the room.
- A message board is shared by all attending, so that the instructor can get feedback on the pace, whether it is too fast or just right.
- When the hour ends, enough sweat indicates that it must have been a strenuous workout. That should also mean calories burned, right?
- There is a short seven minute break between classes, then the next module, “Salsa Shines,” or solo patterns to the salsa beat, begins. I cannot resist trying that class also. More motion, more sweat; it’s all good.
- Additionally, since each studio has its own teaching methods and styles, the webinars give me the first chance to catch up with other dancers who had been in that program longer.
- After my previous live classes, I had to drive home then practice any difficult new skills. Sometimes I forgot exactly how a pattern or step went, which foot I started on, etc. In contrast, with literally no interruption between the webinar and my practice, it became far easier to repeat what I had just learned.
- The last benefit I learned the following morning. The school always sends a replay in case I miss class. That recording can also be used for extra practice.
- Most importantly, it doesn’t matter if you live 5 miles away from a virtual class or 5000; your destination is any computer at the exact time. I always keep the password in your my e mail, which I access from any computer.
I am not sharing this information so that you become a “salsero.” Rather, with most of our cultural options still gone, I suggest searching the internet for virtual classes in your favorite hobby, be it painting, flower arranging, or strenuous spinning classes. It can fill a void in your life during this pandemic until live meetings are available again. For two hours a day, three times a week, I can forget about masks, direction signals in store aisles, distancing, and daily casualties. A webinar can be just the escape you need from today’s threatening outside world.