This article could have been the lead story for our letter. I’m so proud of our team.
In the lightening speed that everything changed for all of us here on island, we heard about “flattening the curve” and we shut our doors after the last class Monday night, March 16. I’m delighted to say we re-opened classes on Sunday, March 22nd, after only 5 days of closure, to a very receptive student body! Let’s recognize the magnificent efforts of the Still & Moving staff and faculty in making that happen, lead by our Operations Manager Neela Vadivel.
I had to make the harrowing decision, just after our 9th birthday – which we didn’t dare celebrate – to shut the doors and walk away for who knows how long. Yet our team’s surge of resolve in the face of a huge challenge has left me breathless with admiration.
The Still & Moving Almanac quote for our online opening day turned out to be: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance,” by Alan Watts in the week of Dancing Through Life.
Oh my gosh, do our staff, faculty and students know how to dance!
As a group, we knew virtually nothing about online classes, except for a small, low-tech Nia Mentorship group that I’ve been running once a week for the last 5 years. We needed to know the latest, greatest online platform for teaching, and we needed to know it yesterday.
Neela strode forward to spearhead our efforts. She and I quickly determined that Zoom provided the best service once our yoga teacher Joelle Ng gave us a demo. Neela then set to work organizing a few key staff members to learn the technology, setting up private lessons for all the faculty to teach online.
Yes, we wanted to keep giving our top-quality movement classes. We were also determined to keep our teacher-student and student-student interconnections strong through LIVE, INTERACTIVE online classed, in which everyone could share before and after class. That’s a different animal than recorded classes. Live, interactive online classes require constant supervision by our staff to help our students get into the broadcast, help the teachers manage the technology required, and keep all the timing like clockwork. Unmanaged, the system would leave lots of room for snafus that would feel unprofessional.
Neela describes her experience: “Transferring nearly 100% of our classes to an entirely online platform can only be described as an exercise in frustration and vulnerability – exhilarating at times and downright infuriating at others.
“We dove into the unknown, headfirst, with none of us having even the slightest experience managing IT, while concurrently training ourselves, each other, our teachers and our students.”
Neela accepted the brunt of all the transition work, taking the studio phone home to monitor 24 hours a day until we finally managed to divvy up the workload. She made sure that no one stepped onto the Zoom stage unprepared to deliver their class or unsupported by plenty of staff behind the scenes.
Our teachers bravely agreed to teach online, to be a link of normalcy to our ‘ohana at a time when everything is topsy-turvy. They’ve been so heroic, completely adapting their classes to teach to a group we can only see as tiny squares on a computer screen, changing our right-left cueing because now our students are moving in our mirror image, learning to feed both our music and our voices directly into the computer with technology we’ve never used before. We’ve been willing to take the chance of falling flat on our faces – like having all the sound equipment fail for the first 15 minutes of a class – and keep smiling and dancing all the way to the end.
As Kendra Gillis reports from the front desk: “I won’t say it wasn’t a shock to the nervous system as it definitely was. It was a quick decision to close the studio with an even quicker decision to move everything online. But when you have a team who are motivated, things flow much easier. We all learned something new together. Rather than one or two “knowing” and teaching others, we all stepped into this blind but willing to learn as a team. I think that’s fantastic. And I’m really enjoying teaching my own classes online.”
Like Neela, Emily joined Still & Moving Center’s staff after working for years in Cirque du Soleil, where she served as stage manager. Emily says: “My skill base is in crisis management, organization and leadership, so this transition has been very engaging for me. In a time when we’re experiencing a global crisis it’s so easy to feel alone and helpless. But serving our community and seeing how grateful everyone is gives me a sense of purpose.”
One of our newest staffers, Sarah Hodges describes her experience: “The task of getting our whole studio online looked insurmountable to me, especially since none of us were pros in online conferencing. We sat together and every day and did research, talked to other studios who were moving online, and what seemed impossible just started to happen. It was pretty miraculous. And then I went online and saw classes full, with students from all around the world! It felt like a big win for everybody.”
According to our Feldenkrais teacher Eva Geueke, these online classes are fulfilling a prediction from Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais that some day this self-healing technique would be in every living room!
Kendra adds, “As someone who loves being home, loves being introverted, this has been an awesome experience. I’ve been taking more classes than ever before at Still & Moving… without actually being there! I’m excited for what this online format holds for the center in the future.”
And here are a few comments we’re hearing from our grateful students:
– The teacher is smiling at me!
– I’m so happy, being in Vietnam, that I can finally take classes again at Still & Moving!
– My teachers are pros.
– It’s wonderful to move again and to connect with fellow students.
– I sure hope you keep offering online classes even after you open back up.
And no doubt we will. It’s a brave new world out there, and our staff, teachers and students are definitely rising to the challenges of it.