Corriston adapts to online schooling, prepares for end-of-year showcase

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Niranjan Aradhey

Dance teacher Amber Corriston works with students in her Dance Company class.

Caleb Goss, Visual Content Editor in Chief

With online learning in place, teachers have had to learn new ways to assign work to students. With this new learning comes challenges. For dance teacher Amber Corriston, the hardest part about online learning is the lack of connection and communication.

“Besides the obvious of not being together in a large space where we can move our bodies safely for the purpose of taking class where we work on technique, stay in shape, learn new steps and styles and work on choreography, going online is difficult because much of dance is about the connection of the community,” Corriston said. “Without being together, it’s challenging because you can’t have a quick conversation with the students about an assignment. It takes a long time to type feedback instead of verbally sharing feedback.” 

With the lack of verbal communication, Corriston encourages students to check their emails and respond in a timely manner in order to stay connected.

“I think that it’s really important for students to encourage each other to respond to their teachers during this time. It takes a lot of time to keep the classes moving forward online and when students don’t respond, other than when they have contacted us about a lack of internet or extra responsibilities with siblings, etc., it’s frustrating. When students do respond, it’s awesome and we are all able to stay connected,” Corriston said

Though getting students to respond is a challenge, Corriston feels lucky to have students that are responsive to work at this time. Throughout quarantine, many celebrities are logging onto Instagram live as a way out of boredom or to take people’s minds off of the reality and stress that COVID-19 has caused. Taking advantage of these free online classes, Corriston and her students have used this opportunity to take free classes from famous dancers, choreographers and even each other.  

“I feel very lucky to have many students who have shared their experiences in terms of taking online classes and who are supporting each other during this time. I heard from a senior dancer this morning that she and four other dancers took “class” together virtually. They would trade off who led different parts of class,” Corriston said. “Though it’s not how they thought this part of the year would go, they are growing as people, using their brains and making memories. I also hear about students who were choreographing together, via FaceTime, from the comforts of their own home.” 

For dance, some of the assignments include reviewing and creating choreography that will be used in their spring concert. As a result of these free opportunities, Corriston asks her students to take an online class on days off in order to keep their minds and bodies in decent shape. She finds this important in order to have material for the end-of-the-year showcase. As well as preparation for the showcase, Corriston has enlisted her dance students, both in company and ensemble, to partake in a virtual project. 

In Dance Ensemble and Dance Company we are working on a really cool project that we hope to share once it’s done. It’s inspired by a video that went viral that included 42 dance choreographers and short clips of each of them dancing in their own space and it was edited together so that the movement flowed from one clip to the next,” Corriston said. “We are doing this same thing over the next four or five days. Last week, the students shared ideas for a theme via Google Classroom, and this week they will be creating a movement, sending it to the next person in the video, then that person will build onto it, and so on. One student from each class will edit the video together (for honors credit) and we will then have a final piece. It’s a way of choreographing that we would have never tried if we had been in school.”

Moving to online for the rest of the school year, Corriston advises her students to make a schedule in order to keep their minds sharp, and so that there is no cramming later. 

“I think it’s also important to continue to have a schedule and routine during these uncertain times. I know having work to do for school has been something that’s kept me motivated and away from wasting time scrolling through social media or being sucked into the news,” Corriston said. “It’s also important to update assignments because someway or another, we have to finish out this school year and the dancers are continuing to work towards that.”

After an hour-long google meet, Corriston and her students were reminded of how thankful they were to be able to dance together regularly at HHS. With this in mind, she hopes that other students take away the same thing from this experience.

“I hope that many students have this same feeling about things they are involved with at school. We are lucky to be able to go to school and have so many opportunities to learn and be involved,” Corriston said. “Specifically for HHS Dance, I hope they experience new teachers, [become] inspired by the ways that the dance community is coming together to help each other across the nation and find moments to be creative in ways that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

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