A north-east dance and fitness instructor has spoken of how virtual classes have been necessary over the past 12 months for the survival of her business.
Elma Robertson, founder of Elma Events, started her journey in the dance industry around 30 years ago teaching classes in and around Aberdeen.
But after the pandemic hit, she was forced to think of new ways to continue offering her classes to the public, which have proved increasingly popular over the years.
“I started my business teaching line dancing in the 1980s,” Elma said. “The classes were very popular then and still are today.
“Word soon got around that they were great fun and numbers steadily increased. Soon I started opening up more classes all over the north-east.
“My services mainly involve me teaching groups but I have taught at many corporate events, hotels and dance weekends.
“I also organise dance shows and weekends throughout the year. Everyone stays over for the weekend and I organise workshops and live music to entertain in the evenings.
“And I can still teach private lessons for couples and instruct at birthdays, anniversaries and hen groups if the need is there.
“I run classes that are of a high level of fitness to a very low impact and mobility class. That’s what makes my work not feel like work because everyone coming to the classes love the social aspect of them.
“So when lockdown began last March, it came as quite a shock. I knew I wasn’t going to give up and not teach.
“I had to stay active for my mental health as well as my physical health and knew my dancers wanted to stay active also.”
With the help of friends and family, Elma learned the ins and outs of how to use the video conferencing platform Zoom.
She has run classes in a virtual format using the platform for some time, as coronavirus restrictions have meant face-to-face classes cannot take place.
“When I finally managed to get Zoom up and running, classes were organised and word got out on social media that I had switched to teaching virtual lessons for the time being,” Elma added.
“My classes soon started to fill up with all my regular dancers and also lots of new ones from all over the UK. My timetable started to grow and at one time, I was teaching about 12 classes a week and they were very well attended – I’m still teaching 10 classes at the moment.
“I have had very positive feedback on the online classes and once I got over all the small hiccups at the very beginning, it became a very normal thing to do.
“Because I use Zoom, we can see each other before class and have a chat, which I think helps a lot. I can also gauge how well my students are managing throughout the class, which is very important.
“I know it’s not the same as being all together socially in a class environment but it has definitely helped.”
Elma worked in the health industry after leaving college, nursing and in health promotions for seven years until having her children.
Requiring a job that worked around the hours of looking after them, she discovered her passion for dance, and later fitness.
Elma now teaches line, Latin American and ballroom dancing, as well as various types of zumba to people aged 10 to 89.
She said: “I started teaching line dancing in a community centre in Aberdeen about 30 years ago, which I loved and still teach classes in today.
“But I decided I would like to do more in the fitness industry which made me want to qualify to teach fitness classes.
“I qualified in level two exercise to music in 1997. I then started teaching fitness classes in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
“I loved my classes but really wanted to get into the dancing side of instructing.
“In June 2005, I qualified in Latin American dance with the United Kingdom Alliance – that’s when I started teaching Latin American and social ballroom dance classes.
“I was kept very busy with these with a little help from Strictly Come Dancing being on the television.
“This was a new type of class for me to teach as, up until then, no partner was required. But I was suddenly teaching partner dancing and have loved it ever since.
“Still wanting to do more, I qualified to teach zumba, zumba toning and zumbatomic, which is a qualification to teach children, in 2011. In 2013 I qualified to teach powerhoop too.
“I also passed to become a fitsteps dance instructor in 2017, adding fitsteps tone in 2020. And most recently I qualified to teach paracise in September 2020.”
Having a lengthy career in the industry has meant Elma has a number of highlights from over the years.
And despite finding the past year challenging, she has been amazed by the determination of local businesses to succeed.
The instructor has shown her support for the North East Now campaign, which is driven by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce and backed by creative agency Hampton and Aberdeen Journals.
“I have lots of highlights,” she said. “The main one is all the friends I have made over the years, as well as the continual support and help I get from my team of helpers.
“I will continue to teach online until everyone is happy to come back and attend classes. I have lots of new ideas for this year. I will never stop learning and will keep new ideas happening.
“As long as my dancers and everyone continues to want to support me, I will be there to support them.”
For more information on Elma Events, visit elma-events.co.uk
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