Many students and community members are getting the swing of things while attending dance classes remotely.
Like many other organizations, Ohio University’s Jitterbug Club has turned virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has set strict limits on close contact.
Typically, the club operates with dance instructor Brianne Szymanski teaching an hour of lessons with elements pertaining to different swing dance moves, followed by social dancing and interactive activities. This year, however, with the multitude of restrictions set in place, the club has formulated an entire new schedule.
Kayla McGinnis, a senior studying English and creative writing, is the president of the club. McGinnis explained the new weekly format, via Microsoft Teams, that includes both instructional and social content.
“Every other week we are switching between an asynchronous dance lesson and a synchronous social hour,” McGinnis said. “In the asynchronous lesson, our instructor records herself doing a specific dance. Right now we’re doing a lot more solo jazz and choreographed routines. For the synchronous hour, we are in a chat discussing the lesson to have the social aspect that’s really important to our organization.”
Alongside this, McGinnis said the club members are offered the opportunity to submit their work to the instructor. She will then review them and they can each then receive feedback on their dance techniques.
Hannah Fleming, a sophomore studying political science, is the treasurer for the club. Fleming mentioned some of the difficulties present within this virtual transition and how it has impacted her club experience.
“Slow internet has definitely been a difficulty,” Fleming said. “Also, just not really having a great space to practice. It’s kind of awkward to practice dancing by yourself and if you don't have a place with good reception or actual space around you it can definitely make it difficult.”
On the other hand, the online format has had its upsides. Emma Stefanick, a senior studying journalism, said the online classes have enabled some members to let loose and relax their self-conscious feelings.
“I think it just gives people more confidence in knowing they don’t have to learn dance in front of somebody else,” Stefanick said. “There definitely is that insecurity when you start out. None of us are spectacular and we’re all here to learn, but it’s certainly difficult at first, so being online can help people feel more comfortable.”
Additionally, McGinnis asserted that this structure allows members to personalize their involvement with the organization to better grasp the material.
“People can now go at their own pace,” McGinnis said. “It’s great that we are able to bring in beginners, but that we are also able to bring in people from all different experience levels. So this way people can rewind and take time with the lesson videos or speed through them if they want to.”
As a whole, the club is not exclusive to OU students, as it extends its membership to community members in Athens, and all across Ohio. McGinnis highlighted this feature of their organization and how it has actually benefited from the online format.
“We’re able to get some members we wouldn’t have been able to get normally in person, because the commute or their schedule was too challenging,” McGinnis said. “So we’ve now been able to get some members from other swing dance communities as well or bobcats who are currently home.”
Despite this not being a typical year, McGinnis said she is grateful for the opportunity to still learn and socialize with members in the club, even with the virtual changes.
“We’re just excited to try our best with this new format,” McGinnis said. “I’m disappointed we can't meet up for social hours, but what is nice is that we can still connect with people. It’s gonna be difficult, but we’re still excited.”