The COVID-19 pandemic has taken many things away from the world. School’s have moved to online, non-essential businesses are shut down, and everyone is now required to stay at home. With this list, no one expected recreational activities to continue. The majority of participants and facilitators of these extracurriculars simply accepted the fact that their time was over. Baseball bats, tennis racquets, and ballet slippers were simply hung up for the time being.
Dixie Elliot, however, refused to stop. Carolina Dance Academy, Elliots studio, continued on in this time of crisis, adapting to overcome. Shortly after her business was shut down to stop the spread of the virus, she began work on creating a virtual dance class.
“We had to keep going,” said Elliot. “We had to give these students something to look forward to in this time of uncertainty.”
Elliot concerns herself with how easy it is for her students to lose the progress they have made dancing.
“It is so easy for them to lose that muscle memory,” said Elliot. “I sat down and learned how to teach virtually, and went at it.”
This change of pace has been a challenging one, however. Where there is usually structured class time, with breaks included, there is now a constant stream.
“This is harder than teaching in real life,” said Elliot. “There’s no down-time; you don’t get any breaks, no time off.”
Elliot is used to taking multiple breaks throughout her classes for shoe and outfit changes. However, the new classes don’t offer this luxury. The Dance Instructor has also found herself working harder physically during her online classes.
“I don’t have my girls up here working with me anymore,” said Elliot. “It’s just me, in front of a camera, teaching dance. I try and do everything over-the-top as well, to make sure I’m keeping their attention.”
Elliot is concerned with the attention span of her youngest students. Not only because of their age, but because of home distractions.
“The little ones have so many distractions at home,” said Elliot. “They have siblings, and TV chatter, and so many other things. That’s why I try to be very animated.”
The response has been incredible. Parents are very satisfied with the continuity of Elliots sessions. They believe it is a way for their children to stay focused.
“These parents are thanking me for keeping something normal in their children’s lives,” said Elliot. “The future is so unknown right now, and I didn’t want these kids to go without.”
This isn’t as easy for every family involved. Some families were hit with hard times following the state of emergency. Not every parent is guaranteed to have a job; Elliot knows this. Her plan? Offer the class free to children who are enrolled, but can’t afford it at the moment.
“I sent out an email to all of the students,” said Elliot. “I know that this is a tough time, and I didn’t want them to think that they had to miss out.”
Elliot requires adults to pay if they can, but doesn’t hold it against them if they can not.
“I told them we could figure something out if they couldn’t pay right now,” said Elliot.
Online classes weren’t the end for Elliot. She wanted to offer her students more. So, she began contacting other professional dancers from across the globe, asking them to teach a class for her students.
“I have a broadway tap dancer who performed at the Oscars this year joining in on a Zoom class this week,” said Elliot. “Everyone is stuck at home right now, so I decided to reach out to some famous dancers to see if they would teach some classes; and they said yes!”
Elliot strives for consistency. She takes her job seriously, and loves evert second of it.
“We’re like a family out here,” said Elliot. “I want to be there for them when I can.”