How to Teach an Online Acro Lesson: Top 14 Tips
Updated: Mar 27
I have been getting tons of messages from dance teachers around the world on how I teach online private lessons, particularly Acro. These principles can be applied to other dance techniques.
Here are some helpful hints on how to teach an online acro lesson based on MY experience:
Make sure you are covered by insurance (verify through employer, if clients from your studio) or your own independent insurance plan for ONLINE instruction. It is helpful to have new students sign a waiver. Visit the FREE Facebook group "My Online Dance Biz" for more information on this. I am not an expert on insurance. The leader of this FB group IS! It was something I didn't even really think about until I met her! All I know...it's important.
2. SET UP
Have them set the camera/computer/iPad landscape, far away from their mat/space, or on a diagonal. Now is a great time to emphasize that spatial awareness is key! No mat? No problem! Use a blanket, yoga mat, grass, or just the floor. Get creative: Instead of yoga blocks, they can use couch cushions, for example. Tell them to perform their skills facing sideways, so you can see their body. Advise them to have any props on hand that you may want to use (i.e. chair, blocks, straps, etc.). Make sure they are not going to kick anything.
Make your expectations clear from the beginning, particularly with parents watching. Reset expectations throughout. "I do not expect perfection, just that you make progress", "If you are not comfortable doing something, please say so". Our encouragement means so much to them now more than ever. Hearing a familiar, reassuring voice is good for their soul. If they start to get frustrated, help them work through it or change gears. There really is no need to force ANYTHING with online lessons. Let them guide the experience.
4. WARM UP
Always have them do a warm up in front of you, even if they say they already warmed up. I have them do a set "Cardio Routine" every time. It addresses their legs, arms, back, supine twist, and core. Even if they "just ran laps", they may not be supple in the right areas of their body. Give very specific stretches (wrists, shoulders, and back ESPECIALLY!) and feel free to return to stretching throughout the lesson. It is important to remember, they may not have truly stretched at all that day and could be susceptible to injury.
Use your fingers or arms as demonstrators for legs. I use cue cards with pictures on them for my younger students. At this point in the year, my students, who have been in class with me, have immediate recall of terminology. LAST RESORT, I hop up and do it...but that happens like once in a blue moon. Teaching online acro dance classes means you really have to pay more attention to what the students are doing in the space they are in...if you are focusing on doing it yourself, you might miss something! In my opinion....this time is not about you, it is about them!
6. VISUAL AID
Have video examples on hand to show them on the screen. I use my Acrobatic Arts App, my Instagram Feed, or sometimes old private lesson footage that I have organized in an album on my phone called "Examples". This has been extremely helpful in teaching online acro classes. If possible, keep a second device nearby to show them examples.
Have them work on skills that you know they can physically execute already, but reinforcing technique and strength. Focus on DRILLS and STRENGTHENING! Work both sides equally, if not more on their "good side" (not their "GREAT side"!). It is best not to introduce brand new skills; however, new VARIATIONS and COMBINATIONS are your friend. If you know and trust a student’s ability, and think they can handle something new, go with your instincts.
Before every lesson, have your student get some water close by. Then, make sure to offer water breaks-- more often than you might think. It is a bit harder to gauge their fatigue level in an online acro class! Once they start to show decreased performance in any one skill, it is time for a little break.
Kids focus is slightly harder to maintain when they are in a different environment, with all sorts of distractions. Most of my students who can typically do a 1 hour lesson get tired at about 45 minutes when online. My 45 minute students have been doing 30 minutes. I think it is just the setting and takes a lot more focus than in an isolated dance room! Recommend 10-15 minutes shorter than you would for an in person Acro lesson.
Of course, use specifics like "Right Arm" and "Left Arm", but equally as effective, "towards the TV" or "towards my voice". If it appears a student is experiencing too much difficulty, it is okay to shift gears. I often say "let's take a break and come back to this" or offer a slightly modified version of the drill. If YOU feel stuck on something, probably they are feeling that energy. Change it up! This is why I prefer live classes for Acro over pre-recorded lessons: because the teacher can gauge the needs of the student(s), supervise to ensure safe practicing/quality technique and gear the class towards the students and their present circumstances.
I found that it is better to have buffer time in between lessons, in order to accommodate for calling in to Zoom or FaceTime. For example, you could do 55 minute lessons, instead of 60 minutes, and start on the hour. I quickly learned that if I stare too intently at the screen for more than about 3-4 hours, I start to go a little bonkers. Have a break. Get up and stretch. Start slow and then add on as you feel comfortable...or before you know it, you'll be sitting at a desk from 9-5pm...and we all know we creative types are USUALLY not designed to do that!
I get all my business from Instagram and word of mouth. To get started, I held social media contests every so often, offering free 30 minute sessions as the grand prize, then I used those videos to promote the service of private lessons (both online and in person!). 100% of my free lesson winners have been repeat lesson schedulers. Sometimes I even offer the winners the opportunity to upgrade to 60 minutes by paying the difference in pricing. I occasionally spring for a few Instagram Ads to reach more people. Lastly, I ensure my branding is consistent across all platforms--super important to keep generating clients for my online acro classes.
Charge what your TIME is worth. Period. Your expertise is the product, do not sell yourself short. Semi-privates are my best friend...they are a lower rate per person, but you make more money per lesson. Win-win! You will burn out and lose motivation, if you do not charge what you are worth. I believe it actually takes MORE brain power and patience to explain, watch, correct, and assess from behind a computer. Teaching dance online is not the same as in person, but it is doable. This is your LIVELIHOOD--do not be afraid of gettin' paper!
Now....I know you're like. What??? For my longer days (11am-8:30pm, 10/10 do not recommend), I bring little fruit buckets, chips, and/or water to my desk, to keep me from getting famished. Schedule in lunch and dinner breaks. I snack in between lessons, so it isn't considered "impolite". If I am uncomfortable and hangry, I won't do my best. We owe them 100%.
This kiddo just started to do this combination not long ago. Still working on it, but she is progressing! Your eye can still see the corrections...sometimes even better with the slow video frame rate!
This kiddo learned a side aerial from start to finish, using proper technique in only 1.5 weeks, during her own personal spring break camp: 3 lessons in person and 3 were online acro lessons.
One of my all time favorite mantras is "last time, make it the best!" This girlie lives 5 hours away from me and won this 30 minute acro private lesson as a prize for my #BUTTHATCHALLENGE!
Teachers, it IS possible and it is not as scary as it seems. Trust yourself and your expertise. Be honest with what you would comfortably teach in person, without spotting, and then go from there! A dear friend once told me, "no one will know what you have to offer unless you put yourself out there". It is so worth the risk because the world NEEDS your talent and passion!
For more guidance, join the FREE Facebook group My Online Dance Biz hosted by Acro Dance Teachers Association.
For more distance learning tools, visit my Shop. There are home practice sheets, a comprehensive training plan, a back handspring drill sheet, and for a limited time only, I am offering online adjudication!