With studios closed, several ballet dancers have taken to social media to not only demonstrate how they are keeping in shape while at home, but to teach classes to others who are also self-isolating. The efforts have shone a light on the communal elements of the art form, with makeshift digital spaces bringing cohesion in a time when routines have been disrupted and anxieties heightened.
In celebration, we’ve rounded up some of the dancers who have been innovating and inspiring on Instagram.
In the early days of self-isolation, James Whiteside took to Instagram to teach an ‘80s-inspired workout class as “Jim Fonda.”
“When I was a kid, I used to do the Jane Fonda workout tapes that my mom had,” Whiteside said when asked about how he decided on the project. “I got to thinking that I’d love to do something like that to sort of boost everyone’s spirits and get active a little bit.”
Outfitted in a windbreaker and a headband, Whiteside was joined by similarly clad guests Daniel Donigan (a.k.a Milk) and Isabella Boylston (a fellow American Ballet Theatre principal dancer). The video, full of aerobics and step-kicks, has garnered over 70 thousand views and amassed 724 comments.
Since the workout segment, Whiteside and Boylston have teamed up to teach barre (or counter, really) classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Instagram Live under the hashtag “#TheCindiesBalletClass.”
Beyond her joint classes with Whiteside, Boylston has been sharing a wealth of content. The principal dancer recently went live on Instagram to host her first mini-variation lesson, during which she taught Odette’s solo from “Swan Lake” and shared advice she’s received from coaches throughout the years. And on Tuesday, she launched the Instagram chat series “#TrinaTalks” with an interview from Mariinsky Ballet first soloist Maria Khoreva.
“Throughout my life, the ritual of daily ballet class has always grounded me and given me an escape and refuge,” Boylston said. “It’s been amazing to be able to connect with my community through our IG live classes. Our hope is to motivate, inspire and hopefully provide some levity during this scary time.”
Boylston is also continuing to share videos from her “#BellasBalletAlphabet” series, featuring dancers around the world demonstrating ballet movements that correspond with letters of the alphabet. If you’re looking for a challenge, Boylston prompted fellow ballet aficionados to do the “Savage” TikTok dance — choreographed by Keara Wilson — while wearing pointe shoes.
New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck has been keeping a rigorous online class schedule with an almost daily run of instructional videos, collated under the title “#TurnItOutWithTiler.” Hosted from her kitchen and living room, Peck runs through several barre and center exercises while sharing insights into technique.
Peck also jumps to her Instagram grid to offer further corrections, dishing out tips for the proper placement of passe and refining fifth position. In an interview with Broadway World, Peck explained that she is a very hands-on teacher and that over the course of instructing online, she has been able to check in with students and give refinements via the series hashtag.
“I would never have been able to pass along the knowledge that I’m getting to to so many,” Peck said. “So if I can do that during these weeks where we’re at home, I’m more than happy to do that[. I]t makes me very happy.”
Also repping New York City Ballet, principal dancer Ashley Bouder has been conducting her self-guided barre class with the aid of her banister and toddler, who has (on occasion) donned her mother’s pointe shoes to demonstrate her burgeoning ballet skills. Earlier in March, Bouder livestreamed class from a studio with a small group of socially-distanced dancers, but has since been sharing her personal routine from home.
In an interview with The Dance Journalist, Bouder said teaching the classes makes her feel “empowered during this time where so much is out of our hands.”
“I know I’ll be fine through this because we all belong to a very supportive community,” Bouder continued. “I’m grateful to be able to contribute in my own way and it makes me feel honored to be part of this incredible dance world.”
The principal dancer has also been sharing storytime sessions starring her daughter on IGTV.
Earlier this month soloist Harper Watters shared his current routine via a hilarious entry into the Houston Ballet’s “HB from Home” series, which documents how members of the company are spending their time away from the studio. In the video, he lounges with his dog, reads, dances, cooks and shares musings on a virtual performance video he created by stitching together separate dance clips sent in by fellow company members.
“It seriously was the best feeling being able to, I guess, virtually dance with all my friends and coworkers again,” Watters said about the video. “Editing it made me feel really, really happy, and it brought me a lot of joy. And so I’m going to continue doing things that make me happy and bring me a lot of joy, because I think in times of uncertainty, you have to do things that will certainly entertain you and make you happy.”
And while Watters isn’t teaching classes, bookmark his Instagram page for spot-on recreations of Beyonce’s most iconic dances.