Dancing is about the moment. Whether you do it with the stars, at a party, or solo across your own kitchen floor it is very much a here-and-now art form.
The problem is that if you want to learn how to dance and get a little extra confidence ahead of your next night out, and you want to do it in the comfort of your own home, you usually have to settle for a static YouTube video or canned online lessons that have been pre-recorded. There’s no spontaneity in that kind of mimicry, and there’s certainly no feedback on where you’re putting your second left foot.
Instead, try to find a real person online who’ll move with you in real-time and give you advice that can really help. Dance lessons via Skype can even build to dance parties where you can move through your own space, at your own pace, while getting the sensation of a mass of humanity in motion.
Taking Dance Lessons Via Skype
There are several groups out there now that will bring their dance studio to your house via a video conferencing connection. They range from twerking and pole dancing to traditional Indian dance to ballet, and on through salsa, ballroom, and swing dancing. With a webcam, a Skype (or other video conferencing platform) account, and some space in your own home to twirl, you can join these teachers face-to-face for a private lesson.
You’ll want to make sure you have a quality webcam with good clarity so you can both see and be seen in intimate detail, but HD cameras now cost less than $100, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one. You’ll also want a camera with a wide-angle lens and a solid zoom–automatic if you can find it–to give you some range to move and still be seen. You’ll want to hear every beat and nuance of the music that’s guiding you as well, so there’s another item for your shopping list–and don’t use the speakers built into your laptop, you’ll get much better sound with a dedicated accessory.
After that, it’s up to you and your teacher as to how immersive you can make things.
The Rise of Virtual Group Classes
The fitness industry has been one of the most eager adopters of virtual instruction and smartphone apps. There are dozens of offerings, ranging from simple heart rate and step monitors to one-to-one, face-to-face personal trainers.
Recently that trend has begun to become more immersive in order to embrace the energy of group exercise. Remote video conferencing exercise apps such as Peloton and Yogaia are using video calling to invite the single soul at home into a large group session. Peloton lets you complete your exercise bike ride within a pack of riders at a New York gym, while Yogaia puts you in live brick-and-mortar yoga classes located in several different countries around the world.
In each case, you are connected to the sights and sounds of the remote room through your webcam, and can draw on the energy (and competition) of the room, the real-time encouragement of the instructor, and the uniqueness of the workout (no more doing the exact same workout to the same video every day).
If you combine that theory with the existing one-to-one dance lesson mentioned earlier, you’d never be short of a dance party.
Dancing on the Internet
European artists have already started staging dance parties online. A recent project called Me and My Shadow combined streamed live video of dancers at venues across several countries to create the impression that everyone was engaged in one big international stomp.
That’s a great place to start, but using a VC platform like Skype as the intermediary makes everything interactive, rather than just static video projected onto a wall at the club.
So, after you’ve finished your salsa, hip-hop, or ballroom dance lesson, why not ask your virtual instructor if they’d like to host a get-together for all their students. With each person dialing in to their own chat window, everyone could share a live tune and do a dance using the steps they’ve been learning online.
Things could get more interesting with advanced immersive technology, such as the augmented or mixed reality Microsoft has been promising with its HoloLens creation. Here, everyone is transported to a shared, computer-generated world where they can carve out a piece of a digital dancefloor. The real images that are captured and sent via your webcam could be combined with those of the other dancers onto a virtual space. It would allow you to pump in music that would be heard by all and even interact with others in the room. The HoloLens is already being used to augment dance performances with unique effects, and that’s just the start.
Soon the HoloLens may be able to put you in a virtual reality setting to let you learn to waltz with friends from all over in a beautiful holographic ballroom. Of course, you couldn’t recreate the most tactile moves of your favorite Dirty Dancing scenes, but everything else about your virtual dance party is real. You and your classmates–or just a bunch of groovy friends–can dance in the moment wherever you are, together.