Newcastle based dance studio adapts to social distancing.
More than just learning steps, Dance for Fun Newcastle is a drop-in dance studio created to promote positive self-image and encourage connectedness.
Photography courtesy of Katie Wade Studio.
Back in 2018 Kahli Saunders was following dance tutorials and creating choreography in her bedroom. Studying a Bachelor of Education at the time, it was a way for her to unpack her day and let go of the stresses of life. Inviting some friends to join, the group quickly grew. Purely through word of mouth and a little help from Instagram, the regular meet-ups became Dance for Fun Newcastle with multiple classes and over 40 members.
The core of Dance for Fun Newcastle is connectivity, community, and creative expression.
When social distancing rules tightened and knowing that the group classes were no longer going to be feasible, it was a no brainer that these dance classes quickly found a new home online. Initially, Kahli was reluctant to try online delivery, fearing that dancers wouldn’t get to feel the uplifting atmosphere of a physical class. Her eager community convinced her otherwise.
The demand was clearly there, the challenge was finding a way of continuing that human connection and liberating atmosphere through a screen.
In one week, she and videographer Elliot Swift (of Elms Media) put together a website and began filming tutorials. Planning for the future was Kahli’s way to move through the uncertainty of the pandemic. Mental health is always at the forefront of Dance For Fun, the classes aiming to tackle anxiety and depression.
“I want the dancers to feel that their presence is noticed and important – it may sound corny but I know that they appreciate it,” Kahli says.
What’s in an online tutorial? You can expect to find classes (either commercial or contemporary) set to hits by the likes of Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Billie Eilish, with plenty more on the way.
The classes are designed to be easy to follow. Each tutorial involves a run-through of the set and then breaks it down into smaller parts to learn the steps. Personal touches like warm-ups and drink breaks are put in to give the feeling of a regular Dance for Fun class. The lively community can also be accessed through a closed Facebook group where members can connect and through Instagram where Kahli surveys the community for what they want in upcoming classes.
Kahli knows that many who join her classes are looking to build confidence and express themselves. Prior to the COVID restrictions, the casual drop-in style sessions were popular with beginners and seasoned dancers alike who used the time to be creative, stay fit and socialise without any intense pressure to perfect steps or be competitive. If the dancers can’t do a particular step, that’s fine, they’re encouraged to create their own. It’s about letting go and having fun.
In a typical class, members can be heard cheering each other on. “I don’t tell them to do that,” Kahli laughs, “they just do.” It’s a product of an encouraging environment.
At the start of 2020, the classes had outgrown the small hall that they were initially using and moved to the Forum at the University of Newcastle Callaghan campus. The space and facilities were ideal for students who wanted to drop by after their academic studies; some of which purposely rearranging their timetables to make time for classes. Kahli hopes that when restrictions are lifted, she will be able to return and once again, fill the Forum with laughter and cheers of encouragement.
Adapting to online has been challenging but there have been positives. The new ways of delivering classes have opened new avenues of connection; human connection is a part of Dance for Fun since its inception. With messages of support from people around Newcastle and beyond, it’s clear that Dance for Fun isn’t going anywhere soon. There has never been a more important time to just dance. Now anybody can access the classes and learn at their own pace from home.
To learn more about Dance for Fun Newcastle and their online offerings, click here.