I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Angela at the Asia Pacific Dance Association Conference. We started to have a great conversation on the Software Program she developed called MoVitae. I was so impressed I got back in touch with Angela for an interview and had to share it with you all.
For all the studios… take your dance class home! (Please click image below for audio).
Chantelle: Hello everyone. It’s Chantelle here from Studio Expansion and I couldn’t be happier to introduce you to the lovely Angela from MoVitae. Angela and I connected recently at the Asia Pacific Dance Association Conference and we had this wonderful conversation about a software program she has developed. Essentially in a nutshell, the program enhances your student’s education and retention of what they’re learning outside of the classroom. This has phenomenal impacts on the relationship that you have with the students and the connections you have.
So I wanted to invite Angela to talk and share with you today about some of her resources and ideas on how to use technology outside of the classroom to help your students perform better. So please welcome Angela.
Thank you so much for being here today Angela, we are thrilled to have you.
Angela: Thanks Chantelle. It’s great to be here.
Chantelle: Would you like to tell us a little bit about your background? I know you’ve been a ballerina. You’ve travelled and performed all over the world. How did you come to be running MoVitae? Could you also share about your experience in the dance industry?
Angela: Sure Chantelle. Well, my interests lie in dancer’s health and education and I believe that creating an extended learning environment is something that will be really helpful and beneficial for these areas. This is why we ended up creating MoVitae.
My background over the past 12 years’ surrounds working with dancers in health and rehabilitation. I’ve also got a Physiotherapy and Pilates clinic in Auckland and we’ve had a number of young dancers come through the studio with us. We started to create an online environment for them and it was really popular.
We were able to see their progress over time and create a nice portfolio for them and they had access to resources and additional materials. So this is where the idea grew from. But in addition to this, I have a background in psychology. I have a Master’s Degree in Psychology and I was also a professional classical ballet dancer in the Royal Ballet Company in London for a number of years. So that is how it all started.
Chantelle: What a remarkable combination of skill sets really and so much of the psychology I’m sure relating to performance has been able to help you harness not only your student’s development and on the mental side of performance but also on the physiological side with your physiotherapy background.
So that’s really fascinating. So how did you come to realise that the missing link in students’ progression was helping them to learn outside of the classroom? How did that become clear to you? Can you talk about what’s important to you when you’re developing a curriculum for students and how to really help them get the most out of their lessons?
Angela: Well, I think there are a number of ways you can approach this. There are a number of ways technology can be used to really support the classroom environment.
The first and most obvious way is with video feedback. It is really only in the past couple of years that we have had the opportunity to share video back to students in a manner that is easy to do and really helpful for them.
I think the video feedback side is going to help with learning choreography and learning technique, especially if the students’ attention is directed by teachers to what they should be looking at in the video. But there’s also now the ability to access resources, there are a massive amount of resources out there online that teachers can tap into and they can help guide students to what they should be looking at.
The third area is the ability for teachers to connect with students to create an online hub and have all those benefits of a closed group community and a support network. There’s the potential to do this now.
I also think it depends on the dance school itself as to how they want to use these different aspects, so it depends on the culture of the school and the type of students they have. They may decide to try and bring in all three aspects or focus more on one than the other. So yes, there is a lot of potential out there now that didn’t exist in the past to be able to access and to use technology in a way that’s relatively easy for teachers to manage.
Chantelle: Yes, absolutely, because it’s really interesting how dance education and education in general is shifting with so much information now being available online. I’m not sure if you saw that video. I think even the Rockettes posted it last week about that young eight-year-old girl and how she has literally taught herself to dance by YouTube, she has watched hundreds and probably thousands of videos. She would just watch every frame and do it again and repeat, then continuously play and repeat until she had absolutely worked out how they’ve done it. This is all without even taking any formal education or formal dance lessons. She has been able to completely master the style.
It’s really interesting as a dance studio and as a teacher. How we need to almost show our value in some ways? Because if kids can think, “Well, I’ve been watching on YouTube. I can dance,” how do we convey the message well, that necessarily there is more to it? How do you see it shifting as an industry?
Angela: Well, I think it would be interesting to see how well that girl could dance now if she had the teacher’s input along with the video. Maybe she would have actually learned the movements even faster and got to where she is faster.
I think that video feedback is really powerful in the sense that it gives students control of their own learning. There are tools like ‘frame by frame’ and with MoVitae you can use mirroring as well, which helps you improve your turning to your weaker side for example. You can watch yourself doing them on your strongest side, flip the video and then practise along with that image or use that imagery, and this is really effective. Video is also useful for things that are outside your frame of reference, like doing an arabesque behind you or even doing turns. It’s really hard to get that information especially from a mirror. So video has advantages in that way.
Chantelle: Do you use that like immediately in the classroom? Or use that kind of in the classroom to get the kids to look at after the lesson finished. How fast is the feedback?
Angela: Oh, you can do both. So obviously, you can have it right there on the device so the student can look at it if they want. But it does interrupt the class a bit. I think being able to share it immediately to the group, or to the individual, and have it there for them to refer to it later and to enhance their home practise with, is really, really valuable.
And yes – we haven’t really been able to do this in the past. It is only in the past couple of years that smartphone capability has got to the point where we can video upload quite quickly in the classroom with a reasonable resolution. There are a number of studies out there around video feedback for dance, and they seem to suggest that video feedback with the teacher directing the students attention to aspects within the video is a lot more effective than no teacher direction, which makes sense, doesn’t it? So it is about more than a student just watching a video. But I guess it also depends on the student, their motivation and the video content itself.
But we notice for example (especially in a rehearsal like environment) that having the ability for a student to look back at a video later with a note from the teacher to say; “X” student at 2:03 minutes, look at your placement relative to the other students at this point, or “X” student, at 3:00 minutes look at your timing with the music, is really helpful and this feedback is really difficult to get in real time. So I think feedback has got a great role to play here. So yes, it will be interesting to see going forward how learning changes for schools if they start adopting the use of video in the classroom.
Chantelle: I think another thing probably concerning a lot of studios who use video is (especially being quite topical at the moment) the filming of students and then putting it on public domain sites. There is a lot of inherent risk and rightly so, we have to concerned about who is going to be watching that video.
So for many studios, that sense of the whole social sharing and publicising the videos is a concern. What I really liked about what you’ve created is a safe portal for sharing the videos amongst a very secure community of your students and teachers, which does have a lot of advantages. Was there any that you have noticed (out of the studios) that are trying to be a lot more cautious and aware about this whole video sharing idea?
Angela: Yes. Well I have a young daughter who dances and I definitely didn’t want videos of her out there everywhere and as an ex-dancer myself I wouldn’t have wanted to put rehearsal videos up on a platform where it has the potential to go viral. So in saying that, I mean anything that’s on a screen, you need to be careful with. But the architecture of MoVitae is designed to keep content as private as possible and for the content to reach directly who it’s intended for. So yes, that’s definitely a key component of it and I think it is really important.
We wanted to be able to create a process where a teacher could speak directly to the students. Again, the idea of giving the students some control over their own learning, and also allowing parents to share in the learning process but be behind (supporting) the student if you like.
At the moment when teachers are sharing through (for example) a closed Facebook group, it’s the parent that is getting the information more often than the student. The student doesn’t have that direct relationship with the teacher, which as far as getting feedback is concerned is really important. We are happy to create a supportive closed community environment that is safe for students.
Chantelle: What really interests me and one of my biggest passions is retention, student retention and keeping kids in the classroom for longer. One of the three pillars in my book of retention, variety, connection and progression and being able to communicate how kids are progressing and how to keep them hooked into that design for what that next step is. They really have tangible ways of identifying how they can keep progressing and then also communicating it back to the parents.
So we are showcasing that all this money they are shelling out for lessons is actually going somewhere. They are really learning and are able to articulate this in a stronger way. It can be really challenging for studio owners, especially if you haven’t got a way of showing, you were here, but now you are here. Video, I think is such a great tool to be able to communicate so instantly their progression and then showcase that back to a family.
Angela: Yes, totally. It is fabulous for that. One of the tools we built into MoVitae is portfolios, so students can show their progression over the year and can prove to themselves that they have improved and share it back to the teachers as well for feedback. So it has been one of our really popular features within MoVitae. The video is perfect for that.
Chantelle: It is perfect.
Angela: You’re your own best judge aren’t you?
Chantelle: And critic knowing us all as well.
Chantelle: And I think – so from that progression element, it is so important that we are regularly communicating back to the student and their families on how they are advancing and making it tangible on how they can improve. What I think is really important as well is the second pillar, which is the connection. This is one of the things that I found really helpful with working on studios to improve their retention, is increasing the touch points between lessons.
For example, if they come for all of this in the week and they’re like, “Have a great time!” and then they go, a week is a long time. A week is such a long time and having a way to keep them connected and invested during that interim period and to also have them thinking is so important to keep them moving towards the goal post that you’ve set.
I think that having a safe forum to do that is such a valuable asset to a studio as well. It’s really exciting. It’s really exciting to have that potential to connect on an intellectual level with the students.
Angela: Yes, because often as students they may miss a lesson as well. There’s so much going on in children’s lives nowadays. For example, there’s a holiday or a sickness – and this instance we’ve noticed MoVitae being used quite a bit, it is a great way to help students catch up when they have been away. There’s also the long holidays such as Christmas holidays and that sort of thing. It allows teachers to tap into resources such as conditioning exercises and set a little program for the holiday period. This ensures they’re keeping that contact and hopefully keeps retention of the students more easily into the next year.
But definitely on a week by week basis, it’s much, much easier for teachers to help those students who are struggling a little bit and accelerate the students who are doing really well. We quite often get the comment from teachers that their student’s are only coming for fun so they’re not really going to be interested in anything extra.
But it’s not necessarily extra. It’s more about just further inspiring them and being able to give them the learning resources they need to really get into doing what they’re doing. I think that even for students that are coming just for fun, they want to get better. I think the thing with music for example, you tend to have sheets of music you can take home to practice with. You often don’t have that with dancing. So even if you are motivated to practice, if you’re struggling a little bit in the class or can’t remember the choreography, it’s really difficult to be able to keep up with the rest of the class.
So we’re finding that it’s actually really helpful for the students that have been less motivated in the past, as they are actually getting more input. They’re able to help themselves if they want and even if they’re coming just for fun, they’re also getting a sense of community and connection with the class. We’ve heard from teacher’s that when a new student comes to class, the rest of the class welcomes them to the class and puts up something little for them. There are some really neat ideas coming through that I think are really helping the students and are helping engagement and helping inspire the students to keep coming along to dance classes.
Chantelle: Yes. I think it’s a very important trend that we will see happen more and more across our industry to be capitalising on technology, to increase learning with students. I think we need to be paying attention to how we can use technology in a safe, secure, controlled way with our students. It’s going to be interesting over the next kind of 10 to 20 years to see how much further we can take it. What is your kind of ultimate vision for this? How else do you think that down the line we may be using technology within a teaching environment?
Angela: Within a dance environment?
Angela: Within schools, technology is getting used more and more, isn’t it. Especially within primary schools and secondary schools. Actually we’ve got a few secondary schools using MoVitae. I think schools are starting to adopt the idea of flipped classrooms, so for example in some universities students do their lectures at night, on video. They watch it at home and then do their essays and anything they need a lecturer’s help with in the class time. I think there’s a little bit of potential to do that with the dance class environment.
I think the other thing is this idea of pulling in the resources that are available online for dancers. At the moment, young students spend more and more time online and unfortunately while there is lots of knowledge out there, accessing the right sort of knowledge is a problem and it’s the sensational stuff that they tend to view more and that becomes their perception of what a dancer is or what dance as an art form is, which is a bit of a shame. So I think there’s potential here for teachers to come in and help shape that understanding for students, which teachers haven’t easily been able to do in the past. And because there are so many fantastic resources out there for dance, teachers with their knowledge, I think are able to create a really neat environment for their dancers.
So the idea of being a dancer becomes more than just wanting to do hyper-splits and that sort of thing. Instead these students get excited by dance and other dancers that are out there that they can see now, which they haven’t been able to do in the past. They can see more choreography. They can see more ballets and I hope that in the end, these dance students become the dance audience later on.
I think local dance teachers have a really important role to play. So along with the video sharing, I would love to see this extended environment get created for their students. Some of our schools in MoVitae are doing this really well, which is really exciting to see.
MoVitae also allows teachers to be able to have a private conversation around a public YouTube clip for example, with students so that they develop those critical analysis skills around the content. I think it could be hugely powerful for learning beyond the classroom as well as reinforcing what’s happening in the classroom and adding value to those physical classes that they’re actually doing.
Chantelle: It’s so exciting. It really is and if you compare it in just a way of positioning within the market. If one studio offers this form of enhanced learning environment in addition to their face to face classes, it really is a fantastic high value add to the studio offering.
I do just want to say that I’m not financially affiliated with MoVitae at all. I met Angela and I just went, “This is a fantastic tool. It is so in alignment with my whole philosophy of education, retention of students,” and I just wanted to share this message with you guys because I think it’s an important thing to start thinking about as an industry and I really do predict that this type of learning engagement will kind of really take off over the next decade and I encourage you to check it out.
So just to give you a little bit more, Angela do you want to tell us a little bit about how the program MoVitae works? What schools and studios who are using it and have been saying about what it has given them as a studio?
Angela: Sure. We have a range of schools on. We’ve got local dance schools, vocational schools, tertiary institutions and secondary schools as well. So everybody uses it a little bit differently. But the structure of it is around being able to keep control of the content that you’re sharing.
It has a Timeline. So it has a very user-friendly sort of feel to it and then from there you can share content to your students and to your student groups.
It’s really easy to get going. You just invite your students and they just click on a link, sign up and then put themselves into the groups, their class groups for your school and then you’re away. So it’s really easy to get started with.
Also it has a number of resources that you can tap onto as a teacher and it’s up to you what you have on it. We’ve got hundreds of conditioning exercises available and we have programs that come through it as well, which students can opt in and out of viewing – around conditioning, nutrition and that sort of thing. So there’s some content on there for you already that you’re able to use if you are a dance schools.
The feedback that we’re getting from dance schools so far is really positive. The parents and students absolutely love it. It does all those ‘good’ things; it helps them feel connected to the dance school, it’s an easy way for them to access information and information from their teachers, some schools are using it as a notice board also. It gives a student their own sort of dance profile, their place for all their dance content.
Students are able to create their own dance diaries and generate the content themselves. It doesn’t always fall on the teachers and in fact, there are lots of ways that teachers can set things out so that they’ve got parents helping create content, or an admin person, or a key staff member. We’ve got lots of ideas as well, if teachers are wanting to create an extended learning environment, whether it’s with MoVitae or not, we show them how they can do it and discuss the things they might want to think about before they start.
For example, which students are they going to target with it? What content do they want to have up? Do they want to use it for all the things we’ve talked about, or do they want to use it just for one aspect? What are their goals? Are they looking to help accelerate learning or more for a remedial perspective?
Oh and we are getting some syllabus content on also, so this will be helpful for accessing content for some schools.
Chantelle: Because you’re behind that huge Facebook page. Is it Ballet Pilates? Behind that massive community are so many of the resources you share from there, back into MoVitae. Is that right?
Angela: Yes. So Dance Pilates has hundreds of exercises available on MoVitae and they’re free for teachers to share to their students. It’s free for a dance school to sign up and get going and there’s a lot of free content for them. It can be the students that pay to use it and we’ve got exercises which are all grouped by function, so exercises for turns, for jumps etc included. There’s a whole support network around it as well. So there is also a Dance Pilates team there to answer questions and help along the way.
It is the same with MoVitae. We will guide people and help them through, we also provide content to teachers to be able to share out to their students if they want to. We help them on the resource side of things as well.
Chantelle: Wonderful. Where would people go to find out more about MoVitae?
Angela: Well, our website is www.Movitae.com. The word came from “curriculum vitae”. So the idea is it’s a dancer’s movement life. So MoVitae.com is the best place to go and then just email us. Our contact details are there, if you have any questions. We are always happy to hear teachers’ thoughts, as well as to help them with anything they want.
Chantelle: Beautiful. If you would in summary share one bit of advice for a studio who’s looking to maybe improve their retention and improve their student’s progression, what advice would you give them?
Angela: I think I would say it’s fairly obvious about how technology can be used to draw in (attract) new students. But have a really good think about how you can best add value for your existing students because they are really powerful messengers for you as far as word of mouth is concerned and as far as making the whole experience more rewarding for you as a teacher and for themselves.
So I think there are a number of ways, as we’ve talked about, that technology can be used to really help add value to what you already have within your studio. So I would say have a think around that and if you want any support from us, just get in touch.
Chantelle: Thank you so much Angela. We’re very grateful for you sharing your wisdom and thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing lots of happy studio owner stories about their students loving MoVitae. So thank you so much for being here. It has been wonderful.
Angela: Thanks Chantelle.
Chantelle: All right. Take care. Thank you so much. Bye.
Angela: Thanks. Bye.
If you are interested in MoVitae, please feel free to visit their website by clicking here.