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As Teachers, Our Relationship to Teaching Online

What is your relationship to teaching online? What are the challenges you have discovered in this approach to our practice?  
We posed these three questions to three teachers.

by Peter Wilberforce, 8th October 2021
Jup Jansonius
5Rhythms; Netherlands

Teaching 5R since 2014, Jup’s invitation is to…
Come and your own force and movement!
Jup is currently the Operational Leader of ICMTA's Events Circle. She is also one of 6 ICMTA members participating in the EU funded research on best practices in online and outdoor teaching, called Dance It All!

Michael Molin-Skelton
Soul Motion, 5Rhythms, Open Floor; USA

Michael gained 5R certification in 1998 and in Soul Motion™ in 2001. He is a long-time student of Continuum Montage with Susan Harper; his teaching of the 5R and Soul Motion™ has been greatly influenced by her mentoring.
Michael is one of new ICMTA Board Members, elected in April this year.  

Mati Vargas-Gibson
5Rhythms; USA

Mati qualified as a 5R teacher in 2008. With a fascination in body-mind techniques, she complements her practice with other methods, such as SoulMotion™, Feldenkrais™, Sufi Whirling and more.
Mati, as mentioned already, is one of new ICMTA Board Members, elected in April 2021.  

Note: Mati passed away in February 2022.

Q1: What is your relationship to teaching online?

I love teaching online. It brought a whole new dimension and possibilities to the table.
Some of the advantages: it saves travelling time, it is accessible for people all around the globe without troubling Mother Earth, it provides the safety of people’s homes to go through their process, it connects people in times of lockdown, it can change people’s relationships to their own habitats.
Teaching needs to be clear, simple and effective which really helps you grow as a teacher.

My relationship to teaching online is ever-evolving. Teaching online, for me, began on a par with a trip to the dentist for a root canal treatment, and was perhaps as painful. And, over a year later, it has grown into something akin to a warm bath and dark chocolate. Teaching online, I give a lot, and in return receive in equal measure. I have gone from someone who loathes a camera in the dance space, to someone who views the camera as a portal to vistas beyond the realms of my imagination.

Teaching online is chaotic in the best of ways, disorganizing and creative. I have been using Zoom for learning experiences for a few years, so shifting to teaching on zoom was convenient and not too complicated. I love the amazing overreach that includes people who no longer live where I teach in person; those who have attended my workshops in other cities, people who just knew me from social media, and new students who follow me on Instagram or Facebook and who do not even have access to 5R otherwise in countries such as Iran. The diversity, in terms of nationality and level of experience was rich and amazing.
I found that the dance can remain potent, connection is available, and deep process is achievable.

Q2: What are the challenges?

Making sure that everybody feels seen; name people even if it is 100 (make sure your assistant helps you with that)
Our more sensitive skills, for sensing what is going on, don’t work online (due to delay, bad signals etc)
Making time for circles or break-out rooms
Technical challenges (best to have an online assistant)
Organising your back office and bookings
Using the right software etc

A range of challenges in Zoom: suppressing background noise, echo cancellation, muting all, enabling/disabling the waiting room, spotlighting, break-out room and rooms for breaking down.
The biggest tech-challenge has been the eternal dance of adjustments and negotiation, juggling the quality and levels of my voice with the music because participants are listening through all different kinds of sound equipment.
Technology aside, the biggest challenge was believing that I could conduct an online class which transmitted the same spiritual vibration as one in-person, or that it was possible at all. Even though I received praise in the beginning for the teachings I was sharing, I could not or would not feel the currency of spirit in the online format. So, I took a few classes to see if it was possible to translate this through the ether. To my great joy I got to experience it through a colleague and dear friend, Edgar Spieker.

Surfing the technology on both ends can be distracting, so there is a need for a lot of hand-holding, clear instructions and help to navigate the registration, payment, and door support.
Issues of music licensing and legality need to be taken into account (Mixcloud Live is a great resource/investment for really being able to stream music legally instead of via Zoom, to make sure artists get their due).
The feedback loop is different and sometimes difficult online: not quite feeling what is happening in "the room".
Teaching has to stay simple. I find that exercises, breakout groups, etc create a lot of distraction and can take folks, and me, out of the dance.
Some people never quite conquered the technology and had connection issues all along, which prevented them from dropping in fully.
I also found out that some people used my playlists, but did not attend class, which did not land with me too well.

As a dancer, I loved the access to so many great teachers and colleagues and friends, yet I know that I concentrated on my dance and practice, and seldom felt really connected to the group I was dancing with as a whole.

Q3: What are your resources for teaching online?

Colleagues, online tutorials on technics, a good booking system, books with dance didactics, listening to your dancers (what are the needs).

I would say the same resources available in-person are necessary and accessible online; being grounded, centered, having a wide view (360°), pausing to rest and restore, teaching from the body, sourcing inspiration from the other bodies in the room. Teaching from home has been a great resource for me; my beloved, Anneli moving in the background, the laughter of Jaylan bouncing from the trampoline, birdsong blessing us from the garden.

For music, I really appreciate the platform that Mixcloud Live offers for streaming any music and promoting my Waves beyond the classes.
Google forms is useful for registration and building mailing lists
PayPal for payments

The collective of teachers, both as support, to try all the amazing talent in the field and get inspired by other teachers' styles, music, etc, was just great.

(Originally published in July 2021 newsletter.)

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