The first thing I did after we shut down our dance groups because of COVID-19 is start thinking about how we can keep dancing. Connecting on Zoom and dancing individually in our living rooms isn't as good as dancing together in person, but it is so much better than nothing! We were all grinning at each other.
I'm using Zoom because I already knew how to use it, and it works well enough. Here's a document Comparing & Contrasting FREE Platforms and Procedures for Online Music Instruction that settles on Zoom as the best choice. It's not free to host larger groups, but it still works well.
You can resolve security concerns by only giving the meeting link to people already in the group, and adding a password for your meeting. You can also remove or ban any unwanted visitors during meetings. More in-depth info at Drew Delaware's page on virtual dance security.
For help getting set up to run your own dance group, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org. Attendees, please reach out to the person running your group locally for tech support.
Zoom's support articles, for anything not covered here. All links below are to specific articles on the Zoom site.
For people attending an online dance group:
- What do I need to attend a group online
It's free to download the Zoom app and attend meetings. You'll need a computer, tablet, or phone, preferably with a camera (built-in is fine), a good internet connection, some open space to dance, and some dances you can do fairly well on your own. Optional: good speakers to make the music sound better.
- How do I get started
Click on the meeting link before the meeting and install the Zoom app when prompted. Check that your sound and video work by joining a test meeting. Take a few moments to explore the app, and notice the row of useful buttons along the bottom.
- How do I join a meeting
When the time comes, click on the meeting link and open the Zoom app. You can also enter the Meeting ID at zoom.us/join.
- How do I see everyone
At the top right of the screen, there's a button that says either Speaker View or Gallery View. Gallery View shows you everyone, and Speaker view shows you the person who's speaking filling the screen.
- How do I make sure I can see one dancer's feet
You can pin that dancer's video, by clicking on the video and selecting "Pin Video". Click "Switch to active speaker" on upper left or double tap the video to unpin. The host can also spotlight one video for everyone, see below.
- How do I mute my microphone
You'll want to mute your mic except when you have something to say, to avoid interrupting others or grabbing the spotlight during a dance unintentionally. Click on the mic symbol at the bottom left of the window, or click the Mute button over your video. Click again to turn it back on.
- How do I turn off my video
If you're taking a break or just don't want to share video, click the video camera button at the bottom left of the screen. Click again to turn it back on.
- My camera doesn't work!
Zoom has camera troubleshooting tips for various operating systems. Check that no other app is using the camera, and that the Zoom app has permission to use the camera (and mic).
- My microphone doesn't work!
Zoom has microphone troubleshooting tips for mobile devices. You can also test your audio.
- Something is wonky during a session!
If sound is garbled, video is jerky, or the view gets stuck in some way, try turning your video off. If that doesn't help, try leaving the meeting, closing the Zoom app, and coming back in. Close any apps that might be using bandwidth (e.g. Carbonite, Dropbox, MacAfee, AirPlay), and make sure your housemates do too. Restarting your router and modem (unplug and plug back in) every month or two can clear up some issues. Check with your internet provider that you have enough bandwidth for video streaming.
For people leading an online dance group:
- What do I need to lead a group online
A computer with the music for dancing and a camera (built-in is fine), a good internet connection, some open space for dancing where you can point your computer's camera at your feet, and some dances you can comfortably do completely on your own. It feels really different when you can't look around to make sure you're on the right track after getting distracted for a moment.
- How do I get started
- Become a Pro member of Zoom for $15/month. It's free to create a meeting for 2 people of any length, or for multiple people for up to 40 minutes, so you can experiment risk-free, but you probably want to run for longer than 40 minutes in general.
- Schedule a meeting. Make it recurring so you can keep using the same link and meeting id.
- Give your folk dance friends the link.
- There is 100 person limit to who can join. Part of the point is connection among people who are used to seeing each other every week, so more smaller online groups works better than fewer larger ones.
- You may need to offer tech support to get people started on Zoom.
- How do I run a meeting
Start your meeting a little early. Give people a chance to chat as they arrive and between dances (just like they do in person!). Share sound from your computer. Choose easier dances, since you won't give/get nearly as many cues as you do in person. Before starting each dance, mute everyone and spotlight your video (or whoever is "leading" the dance) to give them someone to follow. Note that you won't all be in sync because of the delays in signal transmission. Invite people to put requests in the Chat window. Put the dances you're doing in the Chat window, or use Closed Captions.
- How do I share the music from my computer
Click Share at the bottom center of the screen. Click the Advanced tab, and select "Computer Sound Only." Click Share at the bottom right. That way people can still see you dancing while hearing the music. Zoom's instructions: Sharing Computer Sound During Screen Sharing.
NOTE: The first time you share just the computer sound, you'll be prompted to install a Zoom audio plugin. It installs without interrupting your Zoom meeting.
- How do I mute everyone
The dances go more smoothly when you mute everyone right before you start the music. Remember to unmute them at the end of the dance, or they can also unmute themselves. Social chatting is a big part of this! Click Manage Participants at the bottom of the screen to see the Mute All and Unmute All buttons.
- How do I spotlight my video
If people need to see your feet, spotlight your video by clicking on your small video at the top of the screen, and selecting Spotlight video. Click "Cancel the Spotlight Video" on the upper left to cancel.
- How do I add a co-host
During a meeting, you can designate one or more people as co-hosts by clicking on them in the Manage Participants pane and selecting "Make co-host." A co-host can help you mute and unmute people, etc., and also keep the meeting open if you get disconnected.
- How do I share a dance video
If you all want to study a dance together, or if some people in the group don't know a dance, it can work well to play a video and share it with everyone. Make sure you share the sound too. Open the video you want, either on your local computer or on youtube, etc. Click Share at the bottom of the screen. Click the checkbox at the bottom of the screen to share sound. Select the window with the video you want to play. Now when you play the video, everyone will see it, and you can all watch it together, and/or dance along. To stop sharing, click the red Stop Share button that shows up at the top of your screen while you're sharing.
NOTE: Don't forget to share just your sound again after you stop sharing a video.
- How do I make Zoom work better for music
Zoom has a hidden setting for "Original Sound" that keeps it from dropping part of a piece of music as "background noise." This may be more relevant for e.g. singing lessons than dancing, but still good to know. You have to enable the setting first in your account at zoom.us under Advanced Settings, then in the app under Audio, then in individual zoom meetings.
This page written and maintained by Sonia Connolly. Feel free to share widely, copy, adapt for your own use, etc. Happy dancing!