Dancing During a Pandemic

Conservatory faculty and students adjust to changes in classroom and teaching
dancers with masks practicing while instructor with mask checks on students on Zoom

Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way University of Missouri-Kansas City faculty teach and the way students learn.

Those changes are particularly challenging for performance classes such as dance. So, we decided to check in with the UMKC Conservatory Dance Division to see what classes look like during the fall semester.

DeeAnna Hiett, associate professor of dance and chair of UMKC Conservatory Dance, invited us to a 400-level modern dance class, which includes mostly seniors. She has 19 students in the class. But due to social distancing restrictions, she can only have a total of eight people in the room at a time, six students, one professor and one accompanist. On the day of our visit, Hiett juggled two practice rooms and a group of students on Zoom.

Hiett alternated between helping the students in the room she was in.


She monitored via Zoom the students in the other practice room and those connectedly remotely.  


For the students connected over Zoom, Hiett reminded them to pay attention to details and not watch her on their monitors. She told them to focus on the moves, pay attention to carriage and posture, and give attention to the position of hands, fingers, toes and arms.

Senior Emily Moreland said practicing remotely has been a challenge.

“The most difficult part is when I have to dance at home over Zoom, having enough space, a suitable surface and technical issues with Zoom,” she said.


Before COVID, Hiett said she didn’t record the classes, but has found that the recordings, which are now posted to the class in Canvas, are helpful. She said students can review their movements and listen to the feedback given by the instructor.

Squares on the floor mark the space each student needs to stay within. And everyone must wear masks.


Moreland said she is more aware of the space around her because of the limited space in the practice room. “I am also so much more grateful for the time that I do get in the studio, with professors and musicians.”

All practice rooms have industrial air cleaners and sanitizing supplies.



Everyone enters through one door.


And exits through a different door.


Even though UMKC Facilities staff clean the rooms daily, each dancer cleans his or her own spaces after each practice. Senior Emily Rackers said they social distance as much as possible.

“And we end classes and rehearsals with a cleaning spree!”


Hiett said one of the hardest things for students right now, particularly seniors, is putting capstone projects together. Moreland is one of the students who has had to make changes to her senior showcase.

“The concept for my senior piece came out of the restrictions placed on us as choreographers,” Moreland said. “I wanted something conducive to those restrictions so that I didn't spend the whole process feeling defeated by them.”

"The most challenging part for me has just been trying to focus on the moment and not miss the way things used to be, especially since I’m a senior. I think the most positive change is that I’m forced to really focus in class and rehearsals and use more of my time outside of class to work on my craft. I’ve seen more improvement this way.”
Emily Rackers

Rackers will also graduate in 2021. She is weighing her options after graduation but plans to audition for companies and inquire about jobs. She is also considering graduate school because of the limited job opportunities right now. 

After graduation, Moreland would like to dance in a ballet company. The obstacles she’s overcome have made her ready for what comes next.

“I know that whatever gets thrown at me in my career I will be able to handle it because we’ve been through so much already,” Moreland said. “I am really proud of the creativity and perseverance of my class. Necessity really is the mother of invention.”

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Published: Oct 28, 2020

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