So many businesses are virtual these days, but many are not and require in-person interaction. During this coronavirus crisis, all businesses are making adjustments to serve their clients and trying new things. Here is how one local business is embracing technology to keep their businesses moving and their clients served:

Lisa Benke, owner of Sweat|Sanctuary, based in Westfield.

Sweat|Sanctuary is an all-inclusive, intimate dance fitness haven designed to bring out your inner goddess through pulsing beats, fresh choreography, club-like atmosphere and positive community. Their signature format, Sweat&Movement, is a sexy, easy-to-follow, open-to-all-humans dance party for those that want to sweat, move and find their best selves.

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How has social distancing changed the way you conduct your business?

I normally cap my classes at eight dancers per session, so over the last few months these ladies, with a variety of dance backgrounds from novice to professional, have formed quite an amazing bond with one another.  It was an unexpected bi-product of the business that has become the most gratifying.  The inability to dance together was initially crushing, so I migrated the classes to live streaming classes for all where we are at least together virtually!

Is video/streaming new to your business?

Streaming dance classes are extremely new to Sweat|Sanctuary!  I post our Sweat&Movement class videos often, but interactive learning has always taken place in the intimate studio.  In person, the pace of the class varies depending upon students' skill level and how quickly choreography is getting absorbed, so I was so relieved to hear the first “solo” streaming class this morning was well received by the virtual dancers.

What technology are you using for virtual classes?

I initially explored using Zoom for classes when I was simply replacing my live classes with online classes, but I noticed that other studios were struggling with sound quality of voice and music.  The admin is also a beast if you have late sign-ups and no employees to help out with access.  Several days ago, I decided everyone should be able to dance and “unleash her or his inner goddess/god,” so I opened the classes to the public for free using Instagram Live Streaming.  The iPhone quality for audio and video is quite great. The only downfall is the inability to fully interact and see my students rockin’ out.

What were some of the considerations or hesitations in moving to video?

I'm a hands-on dance teacher so the one-way streaming video isn't my ideal “studio.”  If there are moves in the choreography that need more review I may not notice when filming, and simultaneously I cannot celebrate dancers’ “ah-ha” moments when they conquer the those hurdles as I would in our regular classes.  The biggest benefit of teaching, the energy is translated into social media comments and emojis ... not quite the same!

Do you think all of your clients will be willing to go video during this work from home period?

At S|S, every week the dancers learn new choreography and I change genres from hip hop to Latin to traditional jazz to heels classes just as often.  I have dancers that come multiple times per week to learn the same dance again and again. I plan on posting the videos of the live streams, so our community can dance as much as they want, with all of the guidance they get in regular classes.  Besides that, those that have been hesitant or shy to attend, get to take class in the comfort of their own home for free!  Capacity has increased from eight to limitless, and the viewership has been astounding. 

What do you offer that is different from other online classes?

I am a huge fan of a number of our local studios and am so grateful for their efforts to adapt to this temporary lifestyle, as me and my family are certainly taking full advantage of their streaming yoga, boxing, strength training classes as well!

Sweat|Sanctuary's Sweat&Movement classes are unique in the broader sense because it is a choreography-based dance class and requires a constant mind-body connection. Zumba and most cardio dance fitness classes are super sweaty fun as well, but the extra element of learning and retaining movements to create an entire dance to pulsing beats leaves the all-level dancers feeling accomplished and invigorated.  I love to see footage of our amazing community showing off their skills during/after class ... What a great way to connect to one another and collectively lift our spirits in a time of uncertainty!  (It's like TikTok for grown-ups!)