Artists and instructors create online classes, videos during pandemic

by Kate Evans

Artists, dance and yoga instructors, school teachers and others got creative about getting their art and information to students and audiences through remote learning as schools and other venues closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jennifer Carpenter-Peak (Jensuya) and her husband Bob Peak of TarabRaqs were scheduled to teach Middle Eastern dance and culture school workshops at local schools in April and May. When schools closed, the couple shifted gears as a way to still connect with students at home.

Carpenter-Peak had heard that some dance teachers were putting things online during the

pandemic.

She and her husband are filmmakers as part of their art and business and realized that they could film their classes, too.

Jennifer and Bob filmed 35 to 45 minute videos for the Morgan Arts Council-sponsored TarabRaqs Middle Eastern arts integration workshops at the high school. The lessons included the dance steps of the Arabic “raqs sharqi” with Bob on drums. Jennifer also taught students the debke, a folk dance which is done at celebrations and weddings.

The couple filmed short videos of the FAST-sponsored TarabRaqs Middle Eastern dance and culture courses for third graders at Paw Paw Schools and fourth graders at Pleasant View

Elementary. These videos teach students about the language, dance, geography, music and rhythms of the Middle East.

Jennifer said that the filming was really fun and exhausting. They were able to deliver a lot of content through the videos without being there in the classroom with students. They placed the videos on a file-sharing platform. Teachers had the access code and gave it to students so they could watch the videos.

One high school student liked that they could practice the dance moves at home without being self-conscious. Some kids were very engaged in the classes from the feedback, she said.

Jennifer Carpenter-Peak said they learned with the pandemic that education could be shifted in a serious and positive way for students who are remote. Online classes are a financially feasible way to reach kids all over the state, but West Virginia needs to have better broadband internet, she said.

Dr. Monya Cohen had been teaching yoga classes at the Ice House when the pandemic shut down everything but essential services. She said she could no longer teach at the Ice House, but still wanted to teach yoga.

Cohen decided to go to an online platform Zoom to offer free yoga classes to her former Ice House students. She then opened her free online yoga classes up to the Berkeley Springs community.

Her yoga class is held weekly on Zoom from 8:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. and also on Sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The class is for all ages. Cohen said she does an all-levels class with lots of options for beginners and advanced students. If newer to yoga, students can start with a gentler version of the poses.

“Whatever feels right for their body,” she said.

Cohen has been teaching yoga for six years. She has been a certified yoga therapist since July 2019. Cohen previously taught yoga therapy in Berkeley Springs as well. Yoga therapy is a combination of yoga movements, breathing and psychology. Cohen is a psychologist and also works with teens and young adults as a therapist and yoga teacher.

Cohen said she plans to continue her free online yoga classes through the pandemic. Yoga is a passion for her and yoga can bring healing in these uncertain times.

“Yoga offers so much — it helps with strength, flexibility, balance and presence-centered awareness. It also helps alleviate depression, anxiety and back problems as well. The bene

fits of yoga therapy are physical and emotional healing and transformation,” Cohen noted.

Cohen and her husband David Cohen have made their home in Berkeley Springs since 2006. Her husband also teaches free yoga classes on Zoom to the police and the fire and rescue community.

For information on how to access the Cohens’ online yoga classes, email Monya Cohen at mjcohen0636@gmail.com.

Johnny and Kathy Robinson from The New Earth Granary started several online video ventures to bring people together and encourage creativity and love while the pandemic kept everyone physically apart.

The Robinsons created an instrumental song with a video of nature photographs to accompany it and asked people to help give the song a name. The song now has 31 names that Granary followers gave it after listening to it online.

The Robinson’s second video had 22 photographers, one keyboard player-composer and one music arranger featured in putting together the video’s photos and music. Photographers submitted two or three of their best photos that were then entwined with more inspirational instrumental music from Johnny and Kathy Robinson.

The New Earth Granary also put together an online art show of pieces that local folks created with another instrumental tune of the Robinsons playing behind it. The couple is creating a second New Earth Granary online art show that should be posted soon.

Other community groups, from non-profit agencies to the Museum of the Berkeley Springs, have used video and video conferencing as a way to hold meetings, share entertainment and educational material and generally stay connected during the times of physical separation.

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