We are pleased to be sharing another Power of Lockdown article, this week sharing the work of Hartley House Dance Club. Hartley House Dance Club (HHDC) is run by Linda Hesselden and Maryam Pourian from their dance studios in North Stonehouse. Maryam shared that ‘Hartley House Dance Club has been delivering dance classes in Plymouth for over 25yrs.’ The company caters for all ages from Pre- School right through to Seniors and shared that their ethos believes dance is for everyone.

Both Maryam and Linda’s success has been recognised in HHDC, specifically in 2017, when Maryam was awarded Dance Today’s “Dance Teacher of the Year 2017”. Then in 2019, when Linda was officially recognised for her work within Silver Swan Classes at HHDC, when she was chosen by the RAD to be included in the Lucozade Sport ‘Mover’s List’ – a list of 50 people in the UK who inspire their community to move. 

Maryam reflected that “As soon as the 1st lockdown was announced HHDC went online.” Maryam went on to describe that throughout each lockdown they have been delivering their training program through a variety of mediums, including pre-recorded classes, zoom classes and Facebook live sessions.

The work of HHDC doesn’t stop there however! Maryam stated that “For our Silver Swans & Senior Tappers who don’t have internet access, we kept connected via phone calls and mail. Ensuring everyone stayed positive, helping morale and supporting mental well being.”. When interacting with Hartley House Dance Club it’s clear they recognise that for many dance is more than movement or keeping fit; it’s about social interaction and community. They went on to state “It was important to us that our dancers did not feel isolated or alone during this time and knew we were here to listen, help, encourage and support them in any way we could.”.

As well as delivering weekly dance training and exam syllabus, Hartley House also wanted to continue offering workshops with visiting professional dancers/companies. Because of this they also set up a series of professional workshops with West End Performers and managed a summer online ballet project in which their students learnt, performed and recorded dances from the ballet Coppelia. 

Hartley House described further wrap-around activities as a way to “keep boredom at bay by sharing choreography tasks, ballet quizzes, arts & crafts, sending little packages of dance accessories through the post and sharing links to professional performances.”. Further to this they also “used our social media channels to share interesting dance facts, dance history and student success stories.”. 

When talking about the challenges that arose due to the new, and abrupt, transition to online mediums Hartley House described the main challenge was to quickly set up a new online studio management system. Not only were they required to work with a need studio management system but now needed to film and edit classes, all whilst in their words “being able to continue to deliver our full timetable to a high standard.” Maryam went on to state “We are now IMovie professionals!”

When Hartley House Dance Club were able to open once more in September 2020 they reflected “we were so excited to welcome everyone back into our studios. Our main concern was to ensure our students and staff were safe in our buildings, and we were working inline with both the Government and One Dance UK guidelines.”. Following this meant Hartley House set up socially distanced classes, ensuring they limited class sizes, gave each dancer a 2x2m space to dance in and adjusted their teaching practice and syllabus to ensure all students stayed as safe as possible. 

Throughout all of this Maryam reflected there has still “been so many wonderful moments this year.”. To highlight a few Maryam stated “Our Swans, some of whom are 75+ have been amazing, quickly getting to grips with new devices, tech, zoom meetings, YouTube channels and online systems. All done with a smile and lots of laughing…”.

They also reflected that due to using zoom they have been able to collaborate with other dancers they normally wouldn’t be able to. “We were recently asked by the Royal Academy of Dance to be part of their pilot project ‘Silver Swans Side by Side’. This project connects Swans from around the world and we were teamed up with Koblenz School of Ballet in Germany.” At present they have connected all of the “Swans” on Whatsapp where they have had the opportunity to chat, share photos and have also “taught the ‘German Swans’ one of our classical ballet group dances which we hope they will perform with us (via zoom) in our RAD Centenary event ‘Taking Flight’ where 100 Swans will join together to dance for 100 years of the organisation.”. They described the next step is for one of the Koblenz Silver Swans teachers, Sara, to share their choreography in return and that they hope to schedule Zoom coffee mornings and regular combined classes to keep building on this new partnership. 

Further to this Maryam Stated that Hartley House Dance Club “are currently working with Nicky Brice Ballet Schools in Cornwall and the Jamiella Dance Studios in Plymouth to offer free zoom ballet workshops to all our students. This lockdown has been tough and we wanted to reward everyone for their resilience, focus and hard work in all their online classes. It’s also a great way for our students to connect with dancers from other areas and schools.”. 

It’s wonderful to hear all of the varied and creative opportunities Hartley House Dance Club have been making for their students to stay engaged and connected. Maryam commented that “We all know how much joy dance brings, but it’s the friendships and support networks made in class that really makes dance so special. All our dancers and their families are chatting virtually, sharing their news, videos and funny memes with us and each other via their social media groups and this, alongside weekly online classes, is helping us all stay positive.”

If you would like to connect with Hartley House Dance Club and get involved, check our the links below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HartleyHouseDanceClub

Website: https://www.hartleyhousedance.co.uk/