From the studio to the lounge room – NAISDA Trainer Tahlia Watton on teaching during COVID-19 - 11.06.20

When NAISDA made the proactive decision to cease its on-site training in early March 2020 due to the growing concern around COVID-19, NAISDA’s trainers and unit managers were tasked with a unique challenge – figuring out how to deliver NAISDA’s high-quality training and learning in a completely digital space.

NAISDA’s Developing Artists undertake an intense full-time training regime, including daily in-studio classes and training. In just under a month – and for the first time in the organisation’s four-decade history – NAISDA moved all of its course training online, giving Developing Artists the opportunity to continue their professional development from the safety of their homes around Australia.

While this task has not been without its challenges, it has allowed NAISDA to continue its core offering, enabling Developing Artists to continue working toward their qualifications. It has also opened up previously unexplored avenues for NAISDA to connect with communities around the country.

To find out what online training has been like from a trainer’s perspective, we spoke with NAISDA’s Urban Department Hip Hop Trainer, Tahlia Watton, who says the experience has been eye-opening.

How have the past few weeks been going teaching classes online?

We’ve set up Zoom and have been able to put all of the lessons online. Basically, I teach in an adjusted format and try and keep it as similar to the in-class lesson plan as I can so that students feel more at ease with online training.

I think technology makes it so much more accessible. I’ve been livestreaming my classes, which has been quite cool because you see dancers all across Australia. We’ve got students in Western Australia, Cairns, Newcastle and beyond and then there’s me, who is still working from the NAISDA studio. It’s been awesome to connect with students all over Australia.

I think it’s been quite seamless because NAISDA has really done its research, and this is the best possible lesson format to deliver the program. The students have been really accommodating and patient, especially when there have been technological hiccups.

Have there been any major challenges from your perspective?

As a teacher I have to be even more specific because I am teaching online, so that it comes across clearly for the Developing Artists. A lot of the time I have to turn around and face away from the camera so that the students understand and can navigate left and right. I’m also having to reverse choreography so that students can learn – it has been a challenge for me but it’s also been great learning.

And of course, you can’t always rely on technology. Sometimes there’s a lag as it reaches the Developing Artists so to combat that, I encourage them to record themselves and send through their videos to ensure that they are getting the most out of the lesson.


How have the Developing Artists reacted to the change?

The experience has allowed me to figure out what students really want from their training. You could imagine that this might be an opportune time to sit back, relax and take a breather, but instead NAISDA’s Developing Artists have all been so hungry! They’ve all been online, participating in class and submitting tasks, which has been really great. They’ve all seen this as an opportunity to work hard and maintain that connection.

Tell us about the work you have been doing on Elcho Island, known to its traditional owners as Galiwin’ku off the coast of Arnhem Land

Since our online training has emerged, NAISDA has been able to identify what ways they can connect with remote communities.

A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of teaching the junior school on Elcho Island (years four, five and six). It was my first time interacting with these students, so it took me a little while to get a feel for what they liked, what they needed and what they wanted. Once we did a little warm-up and groove session, I got a good idea of what they enjoy, and we got right into old-school groove and some of the viral dance moves that they would see on TikTok! By the end of the class it was such a cool vibe being able to connect with these kids, teach them hip hop and share with them what we do at NAISDA.

NAISDA plans to keep these classes running and connect with various age groups at the school so that we can make more of a connection with the community and pave the way for any interested students to come to NAISDA once they eventually reach that age.

Hopefully we will be able to expand this online offering and reach other remote communities around Australia in the future.

While COVID-19 has interrupted many aspects of everyday life, NAISDA has remained committed to ensuring that it does not interrupt access to high-quality learning and training. We’d like to thank our trainers and staff for helping us to adapt to these changes and ensure a positive transition for our Developing Artists.