London Barndance: Virtual Dances

We wanted to keep the dance community together and sane during the COVID-19 lockdowns, so each month we ran a Zoom-based virtual dance. This gathered an international following, and at times we had participants from Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand - the latter getting up very early in the mornings to take part!

Events so far

See our events page to find out about the virtual dances we have run since May 2020.

How it Works

We use the Zoom video-conference system. This works with desktop and laptop computers, Apple and Android tablets, and many recent types of smart-phone.

Some computers can run a limited version of Zoom in a web browser, but most people will need to install the software (get it free from the Apple App Store, Google Play, or download from the Zoom website). You don't have to create an account or sign in, but joining meetings is a bit easier if you do.

Zoom is really designed for business meetings so we have to set a few rules to make it work for dances. The most important of these is to keep your microphone muted: open mics cause echo and can pick up all sorts of intrusive sounds. Our musicians and presenters have a much longer list of things to worry about, as Zoom is designed for voice rather than music and we have to work around some of the clever things that it does.

You need to be on the mailing list

We cannot make the Zoom sessions totally open, as they would be invaded by unsocial wreckers. Joining details are sent out a day or two ahead of each event on these mail lists:

Dancing in Lockdown

Contra-dancing for one person sounds impossible, but actually there is a lot that you can do - especially if you involve some soft toys, household implements or flower-pots! Some of the older contras translate quite well. Just think of all those dances we used to do where the second couple had nothing to do most of the time: delete the second couple and see what you get.

We will add variety to the programme too. In a contra you get to dance with a new set of people every 30 seconds; Zoom cannot give us that, but we have some ideas.

What to expect

Our first virtual dance was on 9th May 2020. A week or so before the event we sent out a link to a piece of music - a waltz in this case - and asked people to send us short videos of them dancing to it. We got 31 clips which we edited into a composite video called Lockdown Waltz which was shown during the event.

We had two called dances, a quiz in three parts, several music tracks to dance along to, and an interval with a chance to chat with other paricipants. The whole event ran for about 90 minutes and some people stayed on Zoom for another 2 hours to chat!

Things evolved as we get used to what is possible online, and we added more dancing and more live performance.

Video Projects

We continued with the video projects, asking people to contribute clips of them dancing something different each month. Often we did teaching videos for this, and we then produced a composite of all the dance clips to show during the event. This also became a very international thing, with contributions from around the world.

All the composite videos, teaching videos, and some dance walkthroughs are on the London Barndance YouTube channel

Returning to Normal

We collected ideas about how we might start to return to a more normal style of event: