mid-day`s 42nd anniversary: Dance to our tunes

Kamna Arora, 30, and Utsav Malhotra, 30

The duo cracked a successful, innovative and engaging virtual model to teach modern dance to enthusiasts during the lockdown

Founders of the YellowStripe Dance Company had noticed a predictable shift in their routine in March 2020. Amid whispers of an impending lockdown, students of the Delhi-based dance and wedding choreography company wondered how they would conduct classes, should the 21-day restriction be imposed. The gravity of the situation wasn’t lost on the founders, but, back then, the sense of gloom that was later associated with the pandemic, had not set in. “There was a weird excitement linked to it early on. It was new, and many were eager to explore how their routine would play out in this scenario,” says Kamna Prem Arora, who co-founded the company with Ustav Malhotra in 2017.

A string of successful live sessions in mid-March, followed by a quarantine challenge that travelled all the way to the United States, and the duo was convinced that setting up the company’s virtual branch, YSDC Virtual, held promise. While successive wellness and dance companies followed suit, the company claims to be among the frontrunners in shifting based to an online address, even before the lockdown had been implemented.

Utsav Malhotra and Kamna Arora of the YellowStripe Dance Company. Pic/Nishad Alam

Where a significant number of virtual art and wellness classes struggled to consistently draw clients — many eventually shutting shop, and waiting for normalcy to be restored — YSDC Virtual drew eyeballs for its ability to consistently clock in growth. “We took measures to ensure there were no low months. From the onset, we focused on replicating the physical ambience in an online setup. This implies using a paid-service like Zoom, which enables us to see our students appropriately, instead of a free platform like Instagram, or its kind that offers a one-way communication. We added value by meticulously planning each virtual session,” shares Malhotra.

A showcase held in August was one of its exclusive properties. Like an on-stage dance performance, students gathered to put up a virtual show. The idea was a social media sensation, enabling them to grab more eyeballs. “Also, we never let people feel that they were learning all alone in their homes. We’ve been told that it is tough to build a connection in online classes. But we’ve countered that successfully. Since it’s not possible for an online student to be aware of the other batchmates, we created WhatsApp groups, encouraging the sharing of our students’ dance videos, so people could put a face to the names. This sense of community-led to the return of all our students after a month-long break in September,” recalls Arora.

The company’s more-pronounced wedding vertical, ironically, did not take a hit even in the lockdown. With weddings underway in other parts of the world, the duo had to reinvent how to become the go-to company, despite their WFH avatar. “We’ve been conducting wedding choreographies since 2017. But, teaching this choreography demands the presence of several dancers to showcase different movements at once. To ensure that our clients weren’t affected due to restrictions, each dancer in our team would execute the choreography at home. We would eventually create an edit that made it appear like we were all dancing together. We even shared sketches of dance positions for better comprehension of the choreography. People liked our process, and thanks to word-of-mouth, we bagged clients in the UK, Denmark, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. Today, we design choreography for 10 weddings a month.”

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