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Meet the Dancer Behind Dancing Alone Together, Instagram's Go-To Hub for Virtual Classes

Jason Hill, courtesy Disenhof

On March 13, Katherine Disenhof and her NW Dance Project peers were shocked to learn that their company was shutting down for (an optimistic) two weeks, which soon became an indefinite furlough.

Shortly after walking away from the studio, Disenhof noticed virtual dance classes beginning to pop up on her social-media feed. "I realized this pandemic is a shared, global experience," Disenhof says. "I saw dance as a unifying force that would keep people together."

That's when inspiration struck to bring virtual dance resources to one central place, and Dancing Alone Together was born. The initiative includes a website that curates virtual-class postings from around the world (about 30 per day) that users can search by time or genre. The site also offers dancemaking prompts and opportunities to watch performances online. The best classes of the day are posted on the Dancing Alone Together Instagram, which has 36,700 followers and counting.

"I had no idea what this would become," Disenhof says. "At first I wanted this to only last as long as quarantine, but over time I've realized that everyone will have to rework how they operate. I plan to do this as long as it's sustainable."

Her current class focus: 

"Maintenance, and feeling grounded and normal in a time that is really unhinging. I haven't been taking class super frequently. Striving to keep my body ready for eight-hour rehearsal days isn't practical right now, and it's setting myself up to fail. There's no start date, so I'm trying to be mindful of taking class for me and what my body needs."

Her most helpful correction: 

"During both my ballet and college training, I had a problem with looking down. Honestly, I probably still do it sometimes. Teachers who corrected me on this gave me more than just a physical correction, but an emotional and mental one as well. I was pretty shy and didn't have a lot of confidence. I looked down to divert others' gaze from me. Once I realized the power of looking up, it changed me as a dancer."

Her dance education turning point: 

"A two-week intensive with Nederlands Dans Theater. I was the only one there who wasn't from either a professional company or a conservatory. I felt a little out of place, but it was also empowering to realize I had made it there despite having a different background. Being among those dancers made me feel like I really could do this professionally. I took my first Gaga class and learned rep that was different than anything I had done before. Something clicked, and I realized there was so much more that I could pursue in dance."

Her most influential teacher: 

"Alonzo King. He is a really amazing and loving artist. Anyone can learn from him—dancer or not. It wasn't about the technical training that I got from him, but the growth as a person. I keep learning from him every time I hear him speak."

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

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@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

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"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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