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CLI Studios: Making dance education more accessible

Teddy Forance. Photo courtesy of CLI Studios.
Teddy Forance. Photo courtesy of CLI Studios.

Food delivery? There’s an app for that. Books? Try Audible. Movies? Stream them on your phone with a relatively inexpensive monthly subscription. More and more services are becoming increasingly inexpensive and accessible through cost-efficient online services, available wherever there’s an internet connection.

Shouldn’t it be the same with dance education? Yes, says CLI Studios, a company that records dance class videos from star teachers and offers them online for a monthly subscription. Well, some would say, dance education is different. A truly collaborative and embodied learning experience just can’t happen through a video.

Teddy Forance behind the scenes at CLI Studios. Photo courtesy of CLI Studios.

Teddy Forance behind the scenes at CLI Studios. Photo courtesy of CLI Studios.

Jon Arpino, CLI Studios co-founder and director, asserts that the service is meant to supplement – rather than replace – traditional dance education. “We’re ‘studio first’ in everything we do,” he states. Particularly with the youngest generation of “digital natives”, it can be a powerful addition to classroom dance education. CLI works with household-name performers and teachers, such as tWitch and Kathryn McCormick.

“Many teachers tell us that students hear these famous dancers giving the same corrections that they do, and it backs their teaching up,” Arpino explains. CLI Studios Co-Founder and Director Teddy Forance also mentions this effect. They both affirm that it’s inspirational, instructive and humbling to work with these talented people. CLI also collaborates with and supports musicians to produce original music for videos.  

The service holds hundreds of dance class videos, in styles from tap to contemporary to hip hop. It allows dancers to experience the creative work of dancemakers from whom they might take class in New York City or Los Angeles, without ever leaving their homes or studios.  

This allows dancers to become more and more versatile, something dancers are called to be more and more in today’s professional dance world. Apart from that, it’s simply fulfilling to encounter this diversity of creativity. “Not many artists like to be confined to a box. If you’re into art, you’re into exploring. Technology opens up so many options,” asserts Arpino.

Teddy Forance. Photo courtesy of CLI Studios.

Teddy Forance. Photo courtesy of CLI Studios.

Technical levels offered include beginner, intermediate and advanced. CLI’s creative team is also developing creative movement content for ages two through five. “Per feedback from our users, we’re expanding what we offer in this area,” says Forance. Teachers can also find videos aimed at helping them refine their teaching methodology.

What isn’t present is advertising. “Ads have a place in the world but not one on our platform,” affirms Arpino.                  

Adding to the smooth presentation possible without ad interruptions, all choreography is kept simple, clear and largely count-driven enough to translate from video teacher to any student using it. “All of our teachers are exceptional at breaking things down,” explains Forance.

He goes on to describe how every teacher brings something unique to the table. CLI’s platform overall exhibits a wide range of teaching styles – some more serious and some more light-hearted. They’re all part of the community of dancers, dancemakers and dance teachers whom CLI is building through their service.             

“CLI studios gives me a chance to reach dancers whom I probably wouldn’t have been able to otherwise,” Forance adds. “It’s an open creative space, a place where people can feel free to collaborate and work together.”

Teddy Forance. Photo courtesy of CLI Studios.

Teddy Forance. Photo courtesy of CLI Studios.

How is that creative space growing into the future? Arpino and Forance can’t yet reveal some projects currently in process, but some they can describe are livestreaming of entire creative processes and branching out to film videos in studios nationwide. “We’re heading into some really ground-breaking, innovative programs at a level of interaction by users not yet seen in the dance world,” explains Arpino.

It’s all in service of what he describes as CLI’s mission: “to use technology to help inspire dance teachers and students around the world, and to make all of our programs even more affordable and accessible for dance studios.”

As for the concerns about changing the nature of dance education? “It doesn’t have to change the industry,” he asserts. “It can make us all better teachers and students.” I think that’s something that we can all can get behind.

For more information on CLI Studios, visit www.clistudios.com.

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.

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