There’s something about moving to the sound of your favourite tunes that has the power to wash all your worries away. Perhaps it’s the pulsing rhythm underfoot that gets your toes tapping, or a funky bass line that works its way into your hips. Whatever it is, there’s no denying the physical, emotional and mental health benefits of a good old fashioned boogie!
Dance workshops at South London Cares have always been amazing. Everything we strive for as a charity is personified in our dance club, a cross-generational buzz of neighbours young and old, learning together, dancing together and having fun together. It’s a hub of the community and the perfect place to build friendships.
So when the country locked down at the start of the pandemic and we suspended all of our face-to-face programmes, the big question on everyone's lips was "can we run our popular dance club virtually?". We didn’t think it was possible, but being one of our most well attended social clubs, we had to give it a try! And do you know what? We only went and did it!!!
It took a bit of trial and error, taking time to figure out how to get the best quality sound on the neighbours’ screens and to find out the most effective way of teaching dance moves through the screen, but once we mastered it, our Virtual Dance Workshops have gone on to become one of the most successful clubs in our online programme.
It’s like a heart transplant of sorts has taken place, from a physical venue to the online world of Zoom, the heartbeat remains strong and the neighbours’ dancing shoes have firmly stayed on!
Older neighbour Tawieu (74) has attended a whopping 7 virtual dance clubs and has this to say: "It’s a really feel good thing. It helps you to relax and help you take your mind off the pandemic. The cultural dance clubs have been particularly great. I’ve learned a lot, trying out all the different cultures dancing."
Dance is a universal language: it breaks barriers and opens the door for communication across cultures and between the generations. Part of the online revival of dance clubs has been to invite a whole host of facilitators from a variety of genres to share their styles with the neighbours. We’ve hipped, we’ve lindy-hopped, we’ve flipped and we’ve kicked, immersing ourselves in music and movements from around the world.
From traditional Congolese ‘Ndombolo’ dance moves, to the Kandyan dances of Sri Lankan hill country, and even Chinese Fusion routines, the neighbours have taken a tour around the world learning about the history of dance and its role in different cultures.
Younger neighbour Stephen expressed, "Virtual social clubs have been hugely varied, but my personal favourite has definitely been the virtual dance classes. So inclusive, so much fun, absolutely no pressure and thankfully tailored for total beginners! I'm always laughing as much as dancing and feeling uplifted afterwards."
Neighbours have also explored many of the styles and genres of dance that exist in our society. The Musical Theatre Dance workshops saw the neighbours learning the iconic dance routines that many dancers have learned before them, dancing the same steps like those on the stages of Broadway and the West End. The complex and composed steps of Latin and Ballroom were livening up living rooms across South London with the energy of the ‘Cha Cha Cha’ electrifying the neighbours’ screens. And in contrast to all of this, the Dancing Tao workshop encouraged the neighbours to let go of their inhibitions, to let the music move their bodies. Far from the well rehearsed steps of Swing Dance or Contemporary Dance, there was no right or wrong in Tao, and the neighbours relished in the freedom they had to move to their own internal rhythms.
This is what the Musical Theatre facilitator had to say about her experience leading our Musical theatre workshop: "I was asked to lead a Musical Theatre workshop for South London Cares over zoom and I loved every second! Everyone was so friendly and ready to take on the challenge of learning choreography. For lots of us, the last year has proven to be very difficult, but being able to share that sense of community online and through dancing was so much fun! Everybody involved left with a smile on their face!"
There have been so many brilliant online dance experiences for the neighbours this past year, and their continued presence on the programme has been the cause of much laughter and joy. Virtual Dance Workshops have been one of the biggest constants throughout the lockdowns, a reliable source of fun and friendship for all involved and one that will continue no matter what the future restrictions hold. As we move towards returning to our face-to-face clubs, and our neighbours look forward to dancing in the same room once again, the online programme will remain very much alive, taking place alongside our in-person clubs. So for those who want to continue to enjoy dancing at home, to toe tap across the kitchen tiles and dance like no-ones watching, Virtual Dance Workshops are here to stay.
Posted by Enoch Adolfo on Sunday 2nd May 2021
Enoch designs and delivers Social Clubs across Southwark and Lambeth. Previously Enoch worked as a professional musician as a Drummer and worked on a start up in East London working on a cycling app.