News / 25 May 2020

Talking Dance and Surviving the Pandemic

ELS  School Of Dance


Last week I spoke with Emma, the Founder and Director of ELS Dance. ELS first started in 2016 operating out of a local gym before moving into their own stunning facilities in Kealba in Melbourne’s West. ELS are community and skill focused dance studio, offering an amazing range of classes across age groups. Here is a bit more about Emma and ELS Dance:

1.      What first drew you to dancing?

My parents first started me dancing when I was 3 years old. I’d been born premature so was a little bit uncoordinated and slower to develop. Dance helped improve my motor skills as well as boost my confidence. It became my ‘thing’ to show off at school and to friends

2.      How long have you been dancing?

I have been dancing full time for 12 years

After deciding dance was what I wanted to pursue and auditioning, I moved to Melbourne from Tasmania to study full time at the Ministry of Dance under Jason Coleman.

3.      How long have you been teaching?

I started teaching some classes during my time with Jason Coleman and then did some teaching full time at my previous studio back in Tasmania. I’ve been teaching for about 7 years in total, 5 of which have been since opening ELS.

4.      What is your favourite style of dance to do and to teach?

I am still a ballet girl at heart as it was my main focus growing up and when I was learning to dance. It is definitely something I would recommend to anyone learning to dance! But would have to say that Lyrical would be my favourite style to dance in and to teach. I love the floor work and combination of performance and technical skill.

I love teaching ballet to younger kids though, they are so invested and excited to learn and they are just so cute doing ballet!

5.      Tell us a little about your studio

I started ELS towards the end of 2015 and officially launched at the start of 2016. We offer Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop, Acro, Cheer, Contemporary/Lyrical, Vocal, Musical Theatre and Adult Dance and Fitness Classes. Before the pandemic hit, we had approximately 280 students across a range of age groups but with quite a large number of younger aged dancers.

We find that the traditional styles of dance are still the most popular for us, ballet, tap, etcetera but we have seen styles such as Cheer grow in popularity over the last couple of years.

ELS is a bit more of a recreational dance school and our focus is on letting kids be kids, having fun doing dance and building friendships. Putting our community first is the most important and building those connections.

We do help students that want to take their dancing a bit further and participate in competitions. We have about 20 kids that compete at a range of events but try to make the focus of those competitions not necessarily about winning but gaining performance experience, being friendly to their competitors and doing it for the love of dance!

At this stage even though our numbers are still growing we aren’t looking to open another studio; we have space to grow where we are in our current facility and that community element is so important to me. I wouldn’t want to lose that or not be a able to be involved as much which may happen without a separate location.

6.      What has kept you inspired and passionate about dance over the years?

Teaching more than anything has kept me passionate and inspired! I do still love dancing myself and sometimes still miss performing but I love seeing kids develop a passion for dancing as well as building their confidence and making friends.

7.      How do you continue to motivate and inspire your dancers?

We offer an internal syllabus that we follow for our classes but also give students the opportunity to engage in a range of extra-curricular activities to keep them interested and engaged. We do a talent quest, put on discos, offer performances at local events such as school fetes, at the Lions Club and also at some nursing homes. It gives the kids a chance to get out there and give them a chance to perform.

8.      What changes have you made to adapt to the Covid-19 Pandemic to continue to offer quality dance training?

We have moved to offering classes online via Zoom for the most part. We did try over the school holidays putting some pre-recorded classes up on YouTube that our families could access for free but found that the interaction we got from the Zoom classes worked much better.

Using Zoom is working well though of course we would much rather be back to teaching in class! We did have some families that felt their child might not get enough engagement from going the classes in this format but overall, the response from those that are taking Zoom classes has been very positive.

I am finding that in some ways the younger students are responding better to the online classes as they are excited by the novelty of having their teachers up on their TV. They are doing really well and it is a bit easier as a teacher to run the younger classes online compared to classes for some of the more senior dancers. It is a bit harder to give corrections to techniques when you aren’t working with the students in person.

9.      How do you feel this has impacted your studio and the dance community as a whole?

In generally, and definitely the case for myself, dance studios owners are normally pretty extraverted people so missing that face to face interaction with the kids and parents, our dance family!

It has been really great though seeing the dance community coming together to help each other online. There have been a bunch of online groups that have started where dance teachers can chat and also help each other with issues they are facing, solving problems together. As well as that though the ELS community has been so amazing in support me and the studio. I’ve received heaps of messages and photos of kids dancing at home to help stay engaged with the studio and to show us their support.

It has definitely been harder to teach some classes on Zoom compared to other, like Vocal and Tap for example. It is harder to hear how things are sounding. We did have one of our Mums help us get set up on Zoom as she had used it a fair bit for work, this definitely helped us a lot!

We have 7 teachers at ELS and a lot of them are originally from out of town or interstate so a number of them have gone back home during all of this. This has made it a bit tricky at times to get everyone set up and organised but we’ve made it work!

10.   What are you most excited for once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted?

To get back into the studio and to see everyone! Plus getting started on putting together an end of year concert, we really want to be able to able to do this. It will be such a great celebration after everything that has happened this year and I think everyone will need it.

Outside of the studio though I just can’t wait to be able to get dresses up and go for a nice dinner with friends. Enjoying good food and a couple of cocktails!

11.   What words of encouragement would you give to your students during this difficult time?

Keep going and keep dancing! Even though we are stuck at home, adapt how you do things so you can keep doing what you love and we’ll all be able to get back to the studio soon!