This article was updated on June 26, 2020 to include information provided by Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education as well as a response from a Connecticut student.
The pandemic caused by the coronavirus has flipped the world upside down and has sent all of us into unknown territory. As cities start to welcome more mobility among their residents, one of the questions on a lot of dancers and their parents’ minds is: What are studio owners/managers doing to ensure the safety of the students and faculty once the dance schools reopen?
Risa Kaplowitz, Director of Princeton Dance and Theater Studio in Princeton, New Jersey is preparing for the reopening of her school on June 29th. Classes will be held virtually for the first week until NJ laws allow for the studio doors to be open; the rest of the summer intensives will be held in a hybrid format.
WE ARE ALLOWING TEN STUDENTS IN THE CLASSROOM AND THE REMAINDER WILL DO CLASSES AT THE SAME TIME ONLINE.
“Some of the actions we are taking to ensure a safe return for those who want to take classes in the studio are: Taping areas ensuring 8 feet distance between dancers, requiring masks (a controversial topic but one that our teachers and I feel strongly should be enforced), and disallowing physical corrections,” Kaplowitz adds. Also, the school will be disallowing the use of the dressing rooms and only permitting one person at a time in each bathroom, which will be wiped down several times a day.
She is also “hiring technicians to perform precision cleaning through electrostatic spraying EPA registered disinfectant for 90 day protection.”
The International Ballet Academy (IBA) in Cary, North Carolina has had a hybrid summer intensive running since June 8th and has implemented very stringent measures established by the State, CDC and the Interim Guidance for Administrators and Participants of Youth, College & Amateur Sports Program issued by the NC Department of Health and Human Services. They include:
Maintaining social distancing and mandatory wearing of masks once you step out of your car
Measurement of temperature and removal of shoes before entering the building
No sharing of the lobbies and hallways; students enter their assigned studio directly from the outside
A 9:1 ratio of students to teacher in the studio with each student having an assigned barre space
Assigned toilet stalls which are cleaned after every use
When asked how they felt about all of these protocols, the parents who shared the above information about IBA expressed:
WE REALLY APPRECIATE THE SCHOOL UNDERSTANDS THAT EACH DANCER/FAMILY HAS TO MAKE A PERSONAL DECISION AS TO WHAT THEY FEEL IS BEST FOR THEM AND THEIR DECISIONS ARE RESPECTED. WE FELT COMFORTABLE ENOUGH TO SEND [OUR CHILD] TO THEIR IN-STUDIO CLASSES AS WE LEARNED WHAT PRECAUTIONS AND GUIDELINES THEY ARE FOLLOWING.
Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education is wrapping up its second week of summer intensive classes of which there are 65 students attending. “Although surreal it has gone very smoothly,” observes Sharon Story, Dean of the school. “The parents and dancers have been wonderful following all the strict guidelines and are happy to get back in the studios.”
And strict they are. Atlanta Ballet has the parent or guardian of each student sign an “Assumption of the Risk and Waiver of Liability Relating to Coronavirus/COVID-19” form upon reading the four-page document outlining AB Centre’s Safety Guidelines.
The protocols were designed after consultation with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, medical experts, and government officials and include procedures on safety and sanitation, drop-off and arrival, and social distancing in the classroom. Perhaps waivers will become more prominent than ever as businesses large and small do what they can to not only minimize their clients risks, but also their own.
Assuringly, the Safety Guidelines also lay out a plan should a confirmed case of the coronavirus be found amongst those in the building. After a set of protocols are taken in response to the case, AB Centre will hold their classes virtually should it not be safe to enter the studios again.
Are families prepared to do their part when dance schools reopen?
Of course, it is not only up to dance school management to create a safe environment for all those ready to set foot again in the studio. Families also need to be responsible and not only follow the guidelines presented to them, but be conscientious about their own behavior.
The IBA dancer’s mom added, “The hardest thing for the students would be that they agree to only partake in essential outside functions (grocery shopping, gas, lodging) and are expected to comply with the guidelines set forth by the CDC and the State of North Carolina when participating in essential external functions. We need to do our part well as the school is doing their part thoroughly to protect the students and their families.”
When asked “What will you personally do to stay safe when dance schools reopen?” one 16 year-old student heading back to her Connecticut studio at the end of June responded, “I will be taking frequent hand washing trips, as well as following all the suggested guidelines my school has posted, including wearing a mask at all times, sanitizing down barre spots, and staying in my designated spot to dance in, 6 feet away from everyone else.”
Sounds like the discipline learned by dancers from a young age is reflected in their attitude toward accepting these changes.
The bottom line is that as with all other walks of our daily lives, staying healthy in the dance studio is a community effort. There are some very specific challenges in our industry being one that often relies on physical and close contact – teachers giving hands-on corrections to students, dancers partnering with each other in pas de deux – as well as the fact that breathing heavily through a mask may indeed be uncomfortable.
But as humans we are adaptable, and adapt we must. There will be a time when we can again greet our dance friends with hugs and chat with them pre-class as we fix our hair in the dressing rooms. For now, we must simply be happy that we are gradually transitioning from using our kitchen sink as support while slipping on linoleum floors, to the security of gripping placing our hands on the barre and the feel of marley beneath our feet.
Featured Photo for When Dance Schools Reopen is free for commercial use.
Cherilyn's lifelong passion for ballet has opened the door to the next chapter of her journey. Her strong foundation includes training at the School of American Ballet, being a featured dancer with Hartford Ballet and Carolina Ballet, and being co-director/owner of City Ballet Raleigh. She was granted the Affiliate Teacher Award after successfully completing the ABT National Training Curriculum®. A professional career in the industry along with extensive global travel provide her with a unique set of experiences to draw upon as a journalist and audience member. Cherilyn is excited to be sharing her insight about ballet around the world.