University of Montana Dance and Theater Programs Move Online

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University of Montana Dance and Theater Programs Move Online

University of Montana's School of Theatre and Dance has moved all of their communication online, like many others, due to the current health crisis.

Many of the University's instructors spoke with Missoulian about the way their courses have had to be adjusted to fit the students' needs.

"We had to change everything, 100%," said Heidi Jones Eggert, head of dance at UM. "(The students) are used to being in the studio 20 or more hours a week, so they're busy in a way that's not organic for them. They're getting more work through the computer and these are kinesthetic humans - they get energy from other people."

The group has had to shift their focus to individual studies, such as focusing on monologues rather than scene work, and rehearing dance moves outside.

Eggert is currently teaching two upper level modern dance technique classes, but had to revamp her entire lesson plan for the second half of the semester due to the shutdown.

"I could continue to teach some version of a technique class through Zoom, but there's so much of it that involves the energy that lives in the room at the moment," she said. "That was stripped away completely."

David Cody, a musical theater professor, said he is able to teach voice lessons via Zoom, but his music theory classes needed adjusting. Cody pre-records his lectures and posts them online for students to view.

Pam Stiehl, who teaches a musical theater auditioning class, has modified her coursework as well. Students are now learning how to produce online audition videos.

"It's something that is actually critical to our industry. If you can't make it to a theater to audition live, you send a video," she said. "This is a great time to teach them what a good audition video should look like."

Bernadette Sweeney teaches an advanced acting class, and students are focusing on monologues as opposed to choreography and ensemble work. They record themselves performing their monologues and upload a video for evaluation rather than performing them live.

"I'm encouraging them to record in places they think might speak to the work they're doing, while observing social distancing," she said.

Read more on the Missoulian website.


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