Art schools, instructors dance to the tune of home-based learning

SINGAPORE – Indian classical dance instructor Akshaya Vijeesh, 30, is used to supervising consecutive group lessons in the strenuous physical art form.

But with the Covid-19 outbreak, Ms Akshaya has accepted the challenge of coaching her 20-odd students in group classes through online mediums.

With circuit breaker measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, many arts schools and freelance instructors have adopted home-based learning.

Teaching under the banner of Singapore-based Indian arts institution Kalpavriksha Fine Arts, Ms Akshaya said space is a major constraint to online classes as students and instructors cannot move freely and execute perfect postures with extended limbs.

Still, she prefers online classes under the current circumstances.

"Not attending physical classes is the safest option for students and teachers as we do not have to commute," said Ms Akshaya, who usually conducts classes at recreation centres and studios in Simei, Bedok, East Coast and Little India.

She has tweaked her lessons and added discussions of theories in classical dance. "I try to extend the scope of the class by asking them to post practice videos and giving them assignments to complete in their own time," she said.

Meanwhile, visual arts instructor Grace Chen, 26, from Artgrain centre, said the school prepared in advance for the suspension of physical classes by packaging art supplies for students, which could be picked up from the centre before its closure.

Artgrain livestreams some of its classes and offers pre-recorded lessons for certain groups.

Ms Chen has not noted any dip in attendance or income for instructors, with parents overcoming their initial hesitation to become more tech-savvy and assist their children in the set-up for classes.

"We still provide the same attention and feedback to the students. The challenge lies in setting up the space and devices," she said.

Ms Akshaya Vijeesh has accepted the challenge of coaching her 20-odd students in group classes through online mediums. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

While conducting the art classes, instructors ask students to use two devices – one to show them their progress and the other to communicate with them face-to-face.

Ms Chen believes there may also be some benefits to online learning. "The current method of instruction is an opportunity for students to be more independent with their work while we are still guiding them," she said.

For music instructors Erika Carmelotes-Guevarra and Jennifer Liu, home-based online learning is a new experience.

The two instructors from music school Aureus Academy, which has more than 10 centres islandwide, said its faculty was well-prepared to move operations online at the end of last month.

Ms Guevarra, 31, a piano instructor and vocal coach, said the academy has kept 95 per cent of its students despite the social distancing measures. The team's foresight was vital to home-based learning.

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