video editing screen
Through an editing process, Kapahua selects dance moves she wants to illustrate online.

Moving dance classes online has forced University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Department of Performing Arts dance instructor Kea Kapahua to tap into a new level of creativity. The transition to a virtual platform is one Kapahua has never encountered in all her years of training and teaching, but she is up for the challenge.

“The preparation time is tremendous. I have to think outside the box in how I can foster community because when we are in person this happens naturally,” said Kapahua.

No longer having access to UH Hilo’s old gym, equipped with a specially built sprung floor to enhance and protect students while dancing, Kapahua realized that much of the dance curriculum would have to be modified for students taking class from small spaces like dorm rooms to participate comfortably. A typical in-person dance class includes a barre section, centre choreography and across the floor combinations with jumps, leaps and large dance movements. Kapahua has tweaked class formats to focus more on floor stretches, foundational techniques and strengthening exercises.

Kea Kapahua dancing
Dance instructor Kea Kapahua performs at the opening of a dance exhibit in 2015.

Kapahua, a trained hula, modern dance and ballet dancer veteran, uses Zoom to teach live classes but video lags and out-of-sync music happen at times. She’s opted to use music that is a bit slower so students can actively engage in the planned movements. Her students also have access to a few prerecorded classes. The format doesn’t allow Kapahua to see students training in real time, but she believes it’s a helpful option so they can repeatedly playback the video.

Another obstacle that Kapahua has faced is creating a sense of community for dancers. Although dance is a physical artform, she said the experience has a lot to do with the connection between the performers. It’s a bond that manifests when students rehearse together to dance as one, feel as one, breathe as one.

“Usually when we are meeting for dance in person, the dance space is teeming with life and energy, relationships are made naturally,” said Kapahua. “There is a lot more space to dance with full physical expression.”

To replicate these sentiments, she has implemented the use of an app called Flipgrid. The popular educational tool allows students to upload videos of themselves to share experiences and exchange comments as a way to get to know each other.

PAC still plans to hold an end-of-semester performance, which will likely take the form of a video production. Faculty are still discussing new and innovative ways to approach the project.

For more go to UH Hilo Stories.

—By Zoi Nakamura

virtual dance class set up