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Mills students are still dancing

“Going back to this idea that dance is an opportunity to be more human…” reflects second-year Mills dance student, Camille Schmitt; “Like, it’s hard to be human with screens, it’s hard to be energetically connected.”

Schmitt is one of the several dance students at Mills College who is continuing to teach and practice dance during the Bay Area’s current “shelter-in-place” order.

Schmitt shared that she initially felt sad about the “shelter-in-place” order, as she recalled setting personal goals earlier this year to become a better dancer.

“It kind of sucks because now as dancers, the only way we can take classes is by looking at a phone or a screen, and like trying to learn something on a small [screen] is just so different,” explained Schmitt, indicating the shape of a small screen by way with a hand gesture.

Novula Mbambo, a second-year Mills dance student, continues to motivate herself during this time by watching dance videos on YouTube and encouraging herself with thoughts like “I can really do this!” and “Keep pushing!”

Novula Mbambo posts a video of her dancing before she teaches her virtual dance class (Source: via Instagram Nomvula)

Mbambo teaches a virtual “Freestyle development” dance class for the Full Out dance studio in Oakland. She describes her dance class as one that encourages participants to dance whatever style they prefer, while following her instruction.

Mbambo’s Freestyle classes are taught every Friday at 7 p.m. and are open to the public. They cost $10 to attend; the funds earned are used to keep the Full Out dance studio open.

Mills dance students and instructors spoke on the challenges that come with teaching their vitual dance classes.

“I was trying to do dance classes via online streaming, like live streaming, but people have weird connections and some people went home on the East Coast so their classes would be really late at night for them…so I am prerecording the classes now,” said Mills dance student and teaching assistant, Arielle Cole.

Arielle Cole Source: via Instagram leellearico

Specializing in Modern and Contemporary dance, Cole helps teach ballet at Mills and teaches at Montage Dance Studio in Santa Clara on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.

Cole shared her concerns about teaching student dance techniques virtually, saying, “I feel like as a dance teacher you are responsible for someone’s’ safety because there’s things that you can do, that if your [dance students] don’t have that hands-on experience…you can damage your body.”

Schmitt described her love for teaching, despite the circumstances, saying, “I work with youth…as a teacher, as a leader for youth…I do see myself in them and I always think about what I needed growing up to feel secure, loved, empowered and strong.”

Camille Schmitt posts a video via Instagram about her upcoming virtual dance class (source Instagram cameeluuh)

When describing what inspires her most about being a teacher for youth, Schmitt said, “Knowing that I can give youth things I wasn’t given. Things that I needed… I love empowering my students!”

For Cole, taking dance classes with her favorite teachers is what continues to inspire her. Anytime she’s in a dance class and she is asked to do the dance exercises she’s been doing since she was nine, she feels like she’s “…home and can keep going.”

As the Mills College campus continues under its “shelter-in-place” order, Mills dance students continue to create and inspire around their love of dance.