Pandemic forces ARC’s dance department to adapt to online environment

Despite not being able to meet on campus, the dance department at ARC is doing the best it can under the current circumstances. (Photo courtesy of

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, American River College’s dance department is no longer offering in-person dance instruction. Instead, as with most of the college’s departments,  distancing guidelines have forced the department to transition to online learning.

Sunny Smith, a dance professor at ARC, is one of many instructors who was worried about switching to an online environment.

“At first I thought this was going to be bad; that this was going to be bad for me,” Smith said. “I don’t get to personally interact with my students anymore.”

Smith also expressed concern for her beginning dancers.

“Dancers, especially the beginners, won’t have the in-person support of their class when they’d do their dances in front of each other,” Smith said. 

Kenedi Patania, a dance student in Smith’s class, said that she was also disappointed with dance class having to switch to online.

“The things I miss most about having in-person classes, in terms of dance, is the studio space and the team environment,” Patania said. “I live with six other people, four of them being kids, so space is very limited at home. I also just miss dancing with the company; rehearsals were always really fun!”

According to Smith, she has learned to work with Canvas to instruct her students as much as she can.

“Depending on what their level of dance is, I’ll send a video to my students to practice, or make a video for them to practice,” Smith said. “I then give constructive criticism of a recorded video that they are supposed to send back to me.”

Smith said she likes the ease of being able to watch a video of the student’s dance as much as she likes, rather than having the student perform a dance multiple times.

“I can look at the video over and over again to judge it, versus having to have the student perform the dance over and over again,” Smith said.

Another thing that Smith is having her students do now that they’re studying online, is find videos to educate themselves on.

“There are some videos that I assign, and sometimes depending what dance genre they are, I tell them to go find a video or movie to watch that relates to them,” Smith said. “My students are required to write a critique on the dancing techniques displayed in that video or movie and explain the importance of it.”

According to Smith, she still wants her students to get their dance education and analyze its different styles and genres.

“Something that’s important is teaching the history of dance,” Smith said. “Besides from video watching, I have to type up lessons and information for the students to read.”

Besides from the extra work, Smith says that she’s been doing just fine with online teaching. 

“I’m just really anxious for us to get back to in-person class, soon,” Smith said. “I’m really hopeful for next year’s fall semester.”