Tutors talk cats, creative fatigue and camaraderie

Tutors

With classes continuing online for now, we spoke to The Garage tutors Victoria Taylor, Grace Durbin and The Workshop’s Freddie Main about what it’s like teaching remotely.

Just because this is our third term of online teaching doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges – good and bad. But we’ve come a long way since term one says Victoria.

“That was very much about getting to grips with the online platform, the technical aspects mainly, the excitement from the young people as we are learning in a new way and, from my end, my cats wondering in and out of the lesson.

“With dance and most of the performing arts, tutors are lucky that our art forms are not defined by environment, equipment or resources. Any dance tutor is able to choreograph movement that does not travel and use the space. It was simply a case of being actively aware of the camera and a limited performance area. When starting dancers off on their creative journeys you often find space and travel is not explored.”

Term two saw tutors excited to return to the building for a short six-week stint.

“It was amazing to see our participants in person. However, this was slightly overshadowed by the fact tutors now had hygiene procedures in place and as tutors we had to ensure these were being followed. These were being implemented across the whole of society and were new to everyone, making it slightly more daunting. But I love cleanliness! The shift back to online felt more difficult due to losing the luxury of being in the studios. However, we had the energy and excitement of that to carry us through the second half of the term.

“It was a challenge for the participants and me to adapt choreography to a home-learning space. On reflection that was a fantastic choreographic task and tool. It is now that I am realising that as a choreographer how much I rely on the use of space and the traveling of movements. I have had moments where I feel like my inspiration for choreography has dried up and then realised, I would have to suck that up and move on. It’s almost a CPD – choreography in extenuating circumstances.”

Victoria wasn’t the only one of our tutors feeling the strain.

Freddie said: “It’s challenging to maintain high energy of a group as the adrenalin and hype can struggle to travel through the screen at times, especially if participants are tired, distracted or have Zoom fatigue.”

One of our new tutors Grace said a lot of her young participants have responded well to routine though.

“Each week before Christmas, in my musical theatre classes, we got into the habit of doing musical theatre themed treasure hunts around their house which resulted in the kids being able to dress up and get into character for the chosen musical that week.

“When we came back after Christmas and I told them we were going to be focusing on one musical and that I wasn’t planning on doing any treasure hunts they were gutted. I quickly had to slot it back in. I think it’s super important that they have a say in what they do, particularly while online, to help them stay engaged. It was equally as fun for me to get involved too. Needless to say I wasn’t complaining that they were so insistent.

“They’ve also helped me figure out how we can make certain games work over Zoom. Things they’re learning while they’re doing pretty much everything online, they’re bringing to the sessions and sharing ideas and ways we can make some of our old favourite games work. For that I’m really grateful.

“It’s made the process of online teaching as much about how they can help me as me helping them. It’s also been fun being able to use the camera screens to use different entrances and exits, appearing from high or low, crossing the screen etc. Things that we couldn’t do if we were in person.”

Freddie agreed.

“You have to really think on your feet, especially when it comes to warm-up games as so many of the best involve moving around the space, proxemics and physical interaction. Almost every game I am used to doing has needed to be adapted or replaced with something more Zoom-friendly that has the same effect.

“We have looked at performance differently, from the perspective of a camera rather than an audience and how a single perspective changes how you perform and what you need to consider. It’s unlikely we would have done this otherwise.”

Victoria has seen practical benefits too.

“With my younger participants I have seen a higher level of learning and more choreography being retained because there simply aren’t the environmental distractions, like in the studio. With older participants there is a higher quality level of learning. More questions are being asked, more corrections being made and their level of commitment is being shown to their art form.”

Grace said while teaching online has been challenging and difficult at times she’s found it extremely rewarding for the most part.

“It’s strange to think that as a new member of the tutors staff, I’ve now taught more for The Garage online than I have in person. There’s been a real sense of camaraderie between me and my participants and they’ve helped me get through all this as much as I have helped them.

“I’ve been really lucky that some of my classes have continued to have excellent turn out and it’s been so beneficial for both myself and my participants. Seeing their faces every week has given me something to look forward to. They are all so keen to continue seeing each other and taking part in our classes.”

Priority booking for our summer class term opens on 8 March. Public booking opens 15 March. For the latest news on classes and accredited courses at The Garage follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram or email info@thegarage.org.uk. To learn more about The Workshop‘s activities email info@theworkshop.org.uk

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