Increasing Accessibility for Professional Dance Practice online

Our disabled dance artists share their top tips for creating accessible online dance classes…

As we enter the world of online dance classes and keeping active at home, there is a need for inclusive content that is accessible to a diverse audience. We’ve been providing inclusive dance classes online throughout the past few months and here are some of our top tips for increasing accessibility for professional dance practice online from our disabled dance artists.

When you promote your classes be clear in the online description that your class is inclusive, and you will provide options for disabled dancers. If you’d like to know more about translating movement between different physicalities, which helps with offering options for disabled dancers, this blog covers it.

If you are aware a move might not be accessible for seated dancers, sharing the intention/purpose of the movement you are demonstrating will aid the dancer’s translation process. Demonstrating different options for seated dancers using a chair to provide more detail is helpful, but not required, professional disabled dancers are very familiar with translating.

Use open language as much as possible; this blog covers the FOLDS teaching resource which includes open language

Refer to a dancer’s "base", rather than their "wheels" or "feet" or “hands”. Or if you do say it, specify all, this then does not exclude anyone.

Acknowledge the difficulty of mirrored images when using web cams. You can give freedom to your dancers to do whichever side. However, stating which side you are starting with at the beginning can be helpful.  Many dancers struggle with mirroring movement, when creating the exercise consider how a dancer can follow or map the trail of the movement within the exercise to enable them to remember the movement through their experience. They can then not worry about having to mirror the teacher but recall the map of the exercise. For instance, “ I am starting on one side of the body, now I repeat on the other side of the body. The first side is now going to reach across my torso to enable a spiral, I will keep pulling into this spiral away from where the movement originated until I find a full turn to bring me back to the screen."

Regardless of pandemic status - following disabled dancers and practitioners and learning from their practice is key to expanding inclusive practice. One area which is particularly key in online arenas is the acknowledgement and support of D/deaf and visually impaired individuals with having options of subtitles (recording a live class and uploading it to YouTube later with subtitles), asking a fellow dancer to be on the phone with a visually impaired dancer to assist description. Although, Software and access to subtitles, audio description or BSL translation can be difficult to master, expensive or fiddly; but there are a few free options out there.

An acknowledgement of the barriers you face to creating an accessible space and being open to communication with disabled and neurodivergent folks who would like to take your class is far more significant than being too scared to try. 

Allowing time for questions in the class where possible.

Having different financial options available. If you cannot offer your classes for free, why not offer pay-as-you-go or as much as you can today. It is much more likely to invite people in rather than turn them away if it’s not affordable.

It is really helpful to use props or show photos/videos on a second device to aid your explanation of different textures or movement, especially within improvisational tasks.

Doing a sound check if possible prior to the class to ensure music is not too loud and that you can be heard when teaching, as this may impact learning and ability to engage; within learning disabled and neurodivergent communities especially. 

Check on your overall visibility: Use a background that is as clear as possible, the less distractions the better. Use a good light from the front and whatever you do make sure there is no light from behind you - as you become a shadow on a screen. Wear something plainly coloured, that is not the same colour as your background. Make sure we can see your whole body, it’s really helpful to visually see everything that you do. 

Remember which platform you are teaching on and use it to your advantage. On some platforms you can simply rewind the video if something needs to be repeated and a participant can go over the movement as many times as they like – offer this option to your dancers if your class is pre-recorded.

Less can be more: some dancers need more time to process information and find translations for their bodies. Challenge is good... but when you are left always feeling frustrated after class? Not so much.  So maybe dig deeper in to one exercise instead of offering a whole selection of them. This lets everybody try everything and have the time to give their attention to the details that going faster would have hidden.

We hope you’ve found something within this blog that can help feed and develop your teaching practice. Taking small steps and making easy changes to your online classes can do so much to make it accessible to more and more people.

Check out our What’s On page to see our Home Practice schedule and join in with our online activities!

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