With new precautions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student dance teachers at BYU-Idaho face new challenges as they try to teach a social class in a socially distanced world. The Winter Semester 2021 is the first semester that social dance classes have been offered to single students since the pandemic started.
Limitations were put on the classes to meet COVID-19 health guidelines. Each social dance section must occupy two ballrooms to allow for social distancing and are limited to 20 couples per class. This is a sharp contrast to pre-pandemic classes which had upwards of 30 couples in a single ballroom.
Men and women are split into groups of no more than six. While in class, they only interact with those in their group to limit possible exposure to COVID-19.
Janie Fisher, an adjunct faculty member in the Dance Department, oversees the student teachers for the social dance classes and teaches the intermediate classes. Fisher was not part of the decision-making process to bring back social dance classes, but did offer her input.
“I was surprised they allowed it this semester,” Fisher said . “We were both grateful of the decision.”
In Fall Semester 2020, BYU-I offered two sections of social dance to married couples with limited numbers. Fisher was the only teacher for these sections. She found the experience to be much harder than anticipated.
“(The married couples had) no social aspect between them as students,” Fisher explained. “The classes were very, very quiet.”
The Dance Department has experienced significant shortages of students in their higher-level classes because new students are not being introduced to dance in the social dance classes, they don’t know which higher classes to take or if they’ll be offered during the pandemic.
“Social dance is a social class; you really can’t do it by yourself,” said Sara Christensen, a senior studying dance and one of the social dance teachers.
Christensen shared concern over the lack of opportunities for students to use their newly learned skills outside of the classroom. With the pandemic also came the cancellation of weekly dances typically held by BYU-I. Christensen worries that without an application for students to grow their talents they could lose their passion of dance.
Most students Christensen approaches have the question:
“Why would I take it now?”