These days, everything is online – shopping, correspondence, banking, movies, food delivery – and these services certainly make life more convenient and can bring the world to your home! Dance classes online are not a new thing. You can take just about any kind of class online, whether it be free on YouTube or through a paid subscription service. But what if, more than just following along with a class, you could have a private lesson with a professional principal ballerina, who can cater the lesson just for your goals, bringing world-class teaching directly to you in real time? Doesn’t that sound amazing?!
And now it’s possible, with Veyette Virtual Ballet School (VVBS), created by husband and wife team Lauren Fadeley Veyette and Francis Veyette. Lauren, a principal soloist at Miami City Ballet (MCB), and Francis, faculty at MCB, started VVBS this year to “offer students access to professional grade training, regardless of their location,” Francis tells Dance Informa. “We specialize in private instruction and mentoring of pre-professional students.”
The idea came about this past spring when the couple received requests via social media for private online lessons from dancers in such locations as Kansas and Alabama.
“Fran and I both have a passion for teaching, and especially proper technique,” Lauren explains, “so we saw this as the perfect way to reach more students and give them the individualized attention needed to fill in the gaps in their current training. We also have met many students during summer intensives who have said they wished they could continue to train with us during the year, so now they can.”
VVBS offers private lessons via Skype, with the Veyettes in their converted home studio on one end and the student in anything from a small area in his/her home to a rented studio on the other end. All that is required is a webcam, Skype, something to hold on to as a ballet barre, a flat surface to work on the exercises safely and the “Ballet Class” app, which enables the Veyettes and the student to set exercises to a specific tempo with music that both parties have.
Lessons can be created in terms of the student’s needs or goals – whether it be coaching on a Nutcracker variation or Youth America Grand Prix solo, or working on more turnout or control. Classes can be with Lauren and Francis as a team or one-on-one with either of them.
“We like to think of ourselves as ‘tutors’ in that we offer additional assistance in their ongoing practice,” Lauren says.
Already, the Veyettes have received requests from pre-professionals, recreational students who do ballet for fun and want to gain the strength to go on pointe, and professional dancers who are seeking help on jump sequences and tricky partnering lifts.
In addition to one-on-one private lessons, VVBS will also offer mentorship to young dancers. “We think the mentoring services will be one of our main strengths in the years to come,” Francis explains. “We have both had a lot of ups and downs in our careers. We have ‘been through it all’. From the joys of being promoted to the rank of principal, to the desperation and heartache of losing your job, we have been there.”
Francis and Lauren say that they would also like to work with studios on giving full, live classes to their students. “We want studio owners to know that we aren’t your competition,” Lauren says. “We are your remote faculty. Instead of paying for flights and hotels, we are able to guest teach at your studio without the added costs.”
And for parents of private students who may be wary of web communication and the vastness of the internet for their children, Lauren assures that students are safe with VVBS online. In fact, “parents are able to watch the entire lesson and be a part of their child’s growth, when most times they aren’t allowed in the studio,” she says.
The Veyettes are passionate about teaching and passing on to the next generation, or anyone who wants to learn, and they’re excited about the opportunity to be able to offer world-class training to dancers, no matter where they live.
“I love helping my students with whatever the issue is,” Francis shares. “Sometimes, it’s technique – use these muscles this way, and it’ll work better. Sometimes it’s mental – you’re dancing like you’re afraid or embarrassed; let’s get rid of some old memories and replace them with newer, happier ones. Sometimes, it’s fitness/cross-training – I’m weak in these areas, and I want to be stronger. I love when the progress becomes apparent. People always think there is a ‘lightbulb moment’ when it all comes together. But, in my experience, that isn’t the case. Real progress is a slow series of deliberate steps forward. As such, it can be hard for either a student or a teacher to see the progress all along. But one day, you look up and your student is doing steps with ease that they struggled with a year ago and the pride that comes with that, for both of you, can be overwhelming.”
For more information on Veyette Virtual Ballet School or to book a lesson with Francis and Lauren, visit www.veyettevirtualballetschool.com.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.
Teaching photos by Alexis Ziemski and April Singleton.