“They had some pretty good moves!” Riley said. The kids were asking to do dance again for their next movement class. PHOTO COURTESY OF KATE RILEY

Discovery moves

Montana Ballet Company provides virtual instruction to second and third graders

Across the country, dancers were laid off from performing with entire seasons and shows canceled as the coronavirus progressed and never let up. Many of these artists took to sharing their talent and knowledge with dancers far and wide through virtual platforms.

Montana Ballet Company (MBC) in Bozeman sought ways they could still share their love of dance offstage. They switched to Zoom classes for their students in the spring to accommodate the Stay at Home directive while allowing their dancers a way to continue training.

“We knew it was possible to offer something virtually,” Karen Smith, academy and education engagement coordinator with MBC, said.

MBC Moves, a dance residency program for kindergarten-fifth grade students, serves as a way to get dance education to kids all over the community. “It’s a popular after school activity for some people, but not everybody has it,” Smith said.

Big Sky School District (BSSD) has hosted MBC Moves in the past and this year Discovery Learning Academy was the first school MBC reached virtually.

“Discovery was kind of our first one to get us into the classroom live with them, which has been really, really fun,” Smith said.

Smith taught two, 50-minute Zoom classes for second and third graders at Discovery. She had GoPros that were integrated with Zoom, allowing the students to see the whole studio Smith taught from, and she set up a T.V. to give her a larger image of the dancers than a laptop or phone would allow.

“I was a little hesitant going into it, but I think anything we can do to normalize things and bring the same opportunities to the class would be great,” Kate Riley, art program director and art teacher at Discovery, said. She praised Smith’s strength teaching over Zoom and felt the classes went better than she anticipated.

“It’s just been so neat. Most of the kids in that second and third grade classroom hadn’t done dance before,” Riley said.

Part of the larger goal is to integrate dance into common core curriculum and give students without dance studio access a gateway to the art.

“Dance has so much overlap between both music and Human Enhancement (HE) because it’s very physical, but there is also the musicality element as well,” Smith said.

Through the virtual program, MBC Moves has recorded some shorter classes that Smith mentioned could work to give students a movement break during the regular school day. The virtual aspect also allows MBC to reach communities it may not have been able to by driving.

“I think it’s really great to be able to just bring the program to another group of students who haven’t been able to participate in it before. Dance is something that’s really not covered very frequently in school, if ever,” Megan Buecking, education and outreach coordinator with the Arts Council of Big Sky (ACB), said. ACB serves as a liaison between teachers and MBC and provides funding for the program.

Nothing will replace in-person instruction, Smith said, but it was nice to know they have options. “Kids are so adaptable and at this point…it’s nothing really,” she said.

“We’re already talking about next year,” Riley said.

This collaboration was sponsored by Spanish Peaks Community Foundation and a Northwestern Energy grant.


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