Now you can dance like nobody’s watching, literally

How digital technology is making high-quality dance training more accessible.

Estelle Tang
GBC College English — Lemonade
7 min readDec 10, 2019


Dance was the kind of career I thought I couldn’t pursue because I had quit ballet in my teenage years. My ballet teachers had bullied me, resulting in an eating disorder and low self-esteem. I fell in love with the artform again when I rediscovered dance on YouTube, taught myself my favorite pieces, and got the courage to start anew. Today, I am a Dance Performance student at George Brown College working towards my dreams, all thanks to social media and digital technology.

With the rise of digital technology and social media, it has become much easier for the layperson to take their first step into the world of dance, a feat that was previously near-impossible. Barriers to access, such as costly tuition and disabilities, quickly discourage potential dancers from pursuing their talents. Online courses have surged in popularity in recent times. Some are fully-developed courses complete with assignments and certifications, while others are quick tutorials on social media. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or an absolute newbie, there is something for everyone, covering all backgrounds and dance styles.

A woman with a laptop and mug of coffee on a workbench.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

For a significant number of people, online education is simply more convenient and beneficial. According to the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association, 1 in 5 post-secondary students, amounting to roughly 17%, took at least one online course in the 2016–2017 academic year. Access to learning material 24/7, alternatives to face-to-face teaching, options to in-person participation, and a tight-knit community are all reasons that one might find online learning a highly valuable education medium. While certain groups of people experience difficulty getting into a dance studio, digital technology can provide access to dance education by overcoming these barriers to access.

Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT), developed by former Les Ballet de Marseille dancer Marie Walton-Mahon, is an example of an online dance training platform with positive testimonials from professionals, such as Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin. Walton-Mahon was inspired to create the platform by her passion for safe dance training. PBT usually only requires yoga balls and a theraband, and the membership fee of USD180 provides access to clear tutorials and guiding FAQs. With today’s technology, serious dance students are able to use these kinds of platforms to their benefit, enhancing their experiences and accelerating their growth as an industry and community member.

A child in a pink long-sleeved bodysuit and tutu plays with an exercise band in her living room.
Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or an absolute newbie, there is something for everyone, covering all backgrounds and dance styles.

While dance has been seen as an elitist hobby due its expensive nature, digital technology is making high quality dance education more easily accessible even for people who have limited experience in the studio. National University of Tainan researchers studied a general elective aerobics class which facilitated performance improvement using an online peer feedback system.

One possible reason [to explain the results] is that the provision of the peer feedback systems mainly focused on the students’ cognitive and skill aspects (i.e., comprehending the assessment criteria and improving the dance skills) instead of their affective aspect (e.g., appreciating the beauty of dance).

Pretest and posttest questionnaires assessed fluctuations in learning motivation and self-efficacy, as well as quality of peer feedback. In their comprehensive analysis, they found generally positive effects of mixed peer feedback — that is, a combination of comments and ratings — on performance and education experience. The results of this research clarify the role of peer feedback and online learning platforms in dance education, as the evidence implies that the use of technology aids to support student growth.

Four women in pink sport bras and leggings, each doing arm exercises with a theraband.
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Another digital teaching tool is through the use of an online dance archive, filled with photos, rehearsal videos, and commentary. While these are not as well-known, they are able to perserve and share all kinds of dance pieces. Researchers argue that it may be restricted for those who have some dance experience to understand the evidence; are they open to interpretation even to the beginner dancer, or will they be too technical to understand without prior knowledge? On a positive note, it has been continually built up to eventually become a long-lasting, culturally-rich memory bank. These information systems utilize the constructivist learning theory, which states that humans find meaning in the conjoining of preconceived knowledge and lived experiences that ultimately decide how we react to the learning material.

“Nothing will ever replace the chemistry and magic of a live class experience.” — Caitlyn Trainor

While some cast doubt on the reliability of an online archive that anyone can collaborate upon, these myths of corruption and efficiency are just as applicable to tangible research items, such as books and DVDs. Just as how dancers can supplement their regular training with online collaborations and learning material, an online archive would provide students with materials ranging from familiar and traditional ballets, to innovative contemporary pieces, giving a large majority of dancers the opportunity to explore and deepen their understanding of their career aspirations.

While PBT is geared primarily towards pre-professional ballet students, there exist other educational platforms marketed towards dancers of other forms and skill levels. According to interviews with various creators of online dance education platforms, a dancer should evaluate what suits their individual learning best to reap the benefits of online training, which include flexible scheduling, self-paced learning, and access to unfamiliar styles and some of the best teachers in the world.

A woman glances at her smartphone while holding a donut.
Photo by Max Nelson on Unsplash

Before jumping into the world of online education, we should be aware of the pitfalls on relying too much on this new training method. Caitlyn Trainor, founder of Dancio, told Dance Magazine: “Nothing will ever replace the chemistry and magic of a live class experience.” Videos, Q&As, and online feedback may seem quite interactive, but the experience is wholly different. Since dance is such a physical artform, it must be embodied fully to be expressed effectively and artistically. As of today, there are few high-quality dance courses that have found the balance between in-person and online participation. However, the blended approach of the National University of Tainan aerobics class is a promising sign of progress. Since many students give up studio classes due to personal issues, online courses give those people the chance to discover the joy of dance in a way that suits their needs.

The explosion of social media provides not only sources of artistic inspiration, but also a lottery of advantages in training opportunities and financial aid. One recent example is Natasha Furman, a world-famous ballet child prodigy.

At the tender age of 7, she has won several awards at international competitions, collaborated with major brands for sponsorships, and been invited onto a Russian TV program that showcases talented children. With her hard-earned benefits, Natasha was able to streamline her training and was accepted into the highly prestigious Vaganova Ballet Academy, even starring in the theatre’s 2019 Nutcracker production as little Masha, the younger female lead character. Her success is a testament to how even the youngest dancers have much to gain from the use of modern-day technology.

A smart phone is recording a video of several ballerinas in pink costumes.
Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

Another inspiring example is of Evan Ruggiero, a university dance student who fell ill with bone cancer and had to have his leg amputated. Social media connected him to resources that helped him rediscover himself despite his disability, including motivation from a fellow amputee dancer Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates, whose tap dancing earned him a spectacular reputation. Ruggiero’s story is only one of many similar situations of dance students with disabilities where social media is validating their unique experiences and amplifying their voices.

Since the field of dance is such an embodied and reflective one, it is only natural that our communication and interactions follow in the stead of technology. Human culture is transforming and becoming more and more digitalized over time, a prospect that is fearful to some and exciting to others. show that a multimodal approach to online dance education is essential in order to reap the greatest benefits. Ultimately, we should never be completely rid of dance training lest we lose the purpose of in-person interactions, but wherever studio time fails to provide support, supplementary online resources offer an alternative path to help build stronger dancers.



Estelle Tang
GBC College English — Lemonade

HKG/YYZ. Dance Performance Student. Formerly UofT Ecology & Physics. Former Taekwondo National Team athlete (Forms).