When we started designing our beautiful new studio space, we were so excited. We had an opportunity to completely think through the type of studio that we wanted to be, and what kind of experience we were hoping to provide our members - our TRIBE.
Our studio space is our second home, and we think that many of you feel this way, as well. So when we had the opportunity to create this space, pretty much from the ground up, we were very thoughtful and deliberate in our planning. We wanted a space that would be welcoming, that would be comforting, that would be fun, that would be exciting - and also one that could allow us to grow and expand with the big dreams and plans we have had for the future.
Part of this long-term planning involved laying the ground-work for maybe, hopefully, one day in the future, pipe dream… providing online content. Live streaming our classes to share the VIBE further than the local community.
Little did we know that these long term plans would be tested and put into place so much sooner than anticipated. The world pandemic of COVID arrived and the state mandated we would have to close our physical studio location. What would we do?
So much of what we do here at Vibe Vault Fit is about connection. Our classes are not simply a bunch of movements set to music, not just routines repeated over time. What makes our classes feel magical is the energy that we share being together LIVE in person that our studio room. It’s not just dancing, it’s dancing TOGETHER. It’s not just movement, it’s coming together to share an experience, a moment and a feeling. To say that we were nervous about how we would transition this feeling virtually online, without even a days notice, was an understatement.
Let’s be real - at first, it was scary. There were so many logistics to figure out - technology, communication, schedules, space, kids, pets - there are a lot of moving parts involved with shifting a full schedule of classes involving 10 formats, 30 classes and a dozen instructors to a brand new medium! Our entire staff jumped right in, though, and made the transition look and feel as seamless as we could have ever hoped.
That’s not to say that it was straightforward. As you can imagine, between adjusting to teaching in different places, to a different kind of audience, and being our own production and tech support crew, we definitely had our challenges. And we have made countless adjustments, big and small, along the way. All along, though, we had one goal - keep our community active and connected, and provide any sense of normalcy possible, even if that was in the form of a fitness class or wellness workshop.
The different stages of the last six months have seen us teaching to cameras in very different ways, and each of those situations and methods has been an adventure in and of itself.
The first stage involved each of our instructors broadcasting their classes directly from their homes. This involved each designating a “studio environment” within their home and
using, most of the time, their cell phone to stream their class, which was accessible to our members via private links. While we had to adjust to different variables, from music to spacing to lighting to potential interruptions, the experience had many positive side effects and taught us a lot about resilience and determination.
Our biggest fear was feeling disconnected from you, our TRIBE, and what we found was actually quite the opposite. Sharing our homes with you helped us feel less isolated. In fact, it felt like a bonding experience. And getting a glimpse into each others’ homes and lives helped us feel connected in a new way. We also found that the technologies we were using afforded us additional means of connection. The chat window of the streaming platform became a virtual dance floor with members connecting, sending love, and even sometimes offering each other moral support! Our online Facebook community became a photo album of sweaty selfies, a collection of amusing stories about moved furniture and improvised props and a wonderful repository of motivational memes. Sure, we experienced technical difficulties, power outages, bandwidth issues and the occasional pet or child walking through our “studio” during class, but the shared experience brought our community together in new, unexpected and truly amazing ways.
The hardest parts relayed by most of our instructors were maintaining our energy levels, and the moments right after the camera went off.
You might not realize it, but we derive a lot of the energy you feel from us on stage directly from you. Your presence with us in class energizes us. Your willingness, excitement and support lift us up and carry us on days when we aren't sure how we are going to get through class. When your favorite song comes on and you whoop a little extra, when your best friend is smiling right next to you and you are beaming with joy - all of those things empower us and make us take our best right to the next level. Adjusting to teaching in an empty room, to our phones, not knowing if it was working or not, not knowing who could see us… that was really hard.
What helped was, during the class, with the music loud (well, as loud as we could make it…) and the familiar movements, we could picture you as you are in the studio, we would imagine you dancing along with us and the beautiful smiles on your faces. The moment the music stopped and the stream was ended, though, it felt a little lonelier, and we missed the chatter, laughter and bonding that always occurs in those blissful moments of sweaty happiness after class.
The next stage, the transitional phase, was when we were able to return to the studio to stream our classes. Our goal was to bring back some of the excitement of our familiar second-home in preparation for when we could actually welcome you back there yourselves.
While this change was welcome, it also brought with it a new set of challenges. We were now back in our familiar setting, back on the stage with the spacing we have come to appreciate so very much, but that studio suddenly felt enormous. And dark. And, even with the music blasting, it felt quiet. We worked with a skeleton crew, with only the instructor and one staff member to run the stream and adjust the equipment as necessary. The learning curve here was to fill that room with our energy so that you at home could feel like you were there with us.
This was easier for some than for others. For the members of our staff with dance and performance backgrounds, this brought them back to their performance days. Vibe Guide Jen R. felt that teaching to the empty studio was less problematic, as it reminded her of
her days performing when she could not see the audience from the stage. “Teaching to an empty studio felt familiar to me. I just go in my own little zone where nothing else matters but the execution of the class. It’s something about a stage and feeling the lights on me that kicks me into a performance gear!”
We also had to adjust to teaching facing UP - where the camera is situated, as opposed to when we were at home, where we could position it at eye level. Our goal was always to let you know we were there for you, that you were with us in spirit regardless of whether you could be there in person.
And that is what we took with us into this current phase - this blended hybrid where we had some members joining us and sharing their energy with us in the studio as well as some participating from their homes. Our primary focus now is working to make sure that each and every person taking our class, no matter where they are, feels equally appreciated and energized. Because, when it comes down to it, we couldn’t do this without you. We wouldn’t be where we are without the love, support, dedication and resilience of you, our tribe.
We are honored that you have stuck with us through this amazing journey and through these unpredictable times. We have learned and grown so much through all of this, and we feel that it has made us stronger - as individuals and as a community. You have taught us to never give up. You have taught us to fight for what we want to accomplish. You have reminded us that where there is a will, there is a way. You have reminded us of the power of connection. You have reminded us that physical proximity is not the only marker of that connection!
We are so grateful that you are joining us on this adventure. Tell us in the comments below - what are some of your funny stories from our online adventures, and how have you maintained your connection with this tribe through all of these changes?
See you at the studio!