MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - In early 2020, dancers were lined up in a sun filled room in the Madison Public Library downtown, practicing their dance moves with the help of instructors and partners. Today, dance class with Ballroom Basics for Balance looks very different.

Ballroom Basics for Balance is a program designed to help improve balance through dance, with the hope of preventing falls. In in-person classes, students would take supervised balance tests with volunteers and classmates, and learn choreographed routines like line dances to bolster balance.

During the pandemic, the class went entirely virtual, with students learning via Zoom, and instructors posting routines and practice clips online.

“The advisory board members and I, many of whom are instructors themselves, got together and thought well, should we try something virtual?” said Susan Frikken, a physical therapist and instructor with Ballroom Basics for Balance. “We talked about that and in the meantime, it was spring and summer, so we decided to do some open air one-time offerings.”

Frikken said going virtual entailed a day long instructor training, plus sessions to help walk through the technology and get to know students one on one. Additionally, instructors took those opportunities to explain safety measures to ensure students were safe while dancing at home.

“You have to know how to communicate really concisely and correctly because you can’t show people a well as you could in person,” Frikken said.

Because of the flexibility of a virtual classroom, Frikken said one of their volunteers with the program has been able to help students practice dances between sessions, and she’s watched students start to build relationships from those virtual sessions.

“It was born out of this virtual need to one keep people connected to each other because of the social isolation, and two because you know, help to practice is great,” she said. “Even people who are super active were unmotivated, were having a hard time and struggling. It almost wouldn’t have happened I think otherwise.”

The hope to keep people engaged rather than isolated, and the love of the classes, convinced Frikken that virtual classes were the right way to go.

For student Alice Kissling, virtual classes have made the best out of a bad situation.

“This is what’s kept me moving through COVID, and also just connecting with the folks again, because we’ve been dancing together for a long time,” Kissling said.

“I love it, it’s made my life so much better because I don’t like going out and doing indoor things, I don’t like wearing a mask, I don’t see very well, so it’s much easier for me to do things out of my home,” said Dana Schreiber, another student of the class. “It’s so stimulating and it’s something to look forward to, and it’s just so easy.”

Frikken said virtual classes have brought more silver linings than down sides. Frikken said she’s planning to offer virtual classes between sessions going forward, like in the middle of winter when it’s harder for people to get around.

“Our curriculum has gotten more fine tuned, we are now able to work with both volunteers and participants from distance,” she said.

Now virtual classes are coming to an end, with in-person outdoor classes starting up in the coming weeks. For more information of Ballroom Basics for Balance, click here.

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