Bay Area dance studios cope with the twists and turns of COVID-19
April 12, 2021
Hope has been a scarce find throughout the past year. Many search for inspiration and creativity through physical activities and outlets.
Dance has been one of these rare outlets for many people, as it gives individuals a way to openly express themselves in unique ways. As dance studios in the Bay Area deal with the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic, they have had to find new and unfamiliar ways to keep their doors open.
The sport has taken up a significant part in the lives of dancers, teachers, and studio owners, as they work to keep the sport alive. In this unprecedented time, where many thoughts and actions have been suppressed, local dance studios such as the Academy of American Dance and Arthur Murray Dance Studio have strived to create some normality to provide the creative outlet and training dancers are in need of during this time.
COVID-19 restrictions have caused many studios not to be able to provide their regular in-person classes. To counter this and follow the community safety guidelines and county regulations, many have been able to transition their studios into virtual classes, where dancers will join through Zoom or other platforms, as well as in-person classes when permitted.
Academy of American Dance
Led by director Julia Dugan, the Academy of American Dance in Redwood City, formally known as the Academy of American Ballet, has been able to find new ways to encourage the dancers to continue their training and keep everyone engaged. This year, they introduced a new virtual version of the well-known nutcracker due to the inability to do a typical production.
“I tried to still give the dancers a goal and something to look forward to, as well as the parents. We did a virtual Nutcracker, where we filmed in my parking lot outside and rigged up an entire stage with backstage and costumes, and we filmed it … I think that that provided a nice outlet for everyone, and there was a lot of joy that came from it,” Dugan said.
Although Dugan has been able to find ways to make the best of the current situation, given the circumstances, COVID-19 has faced studios with many difficulties.
“It has disrupted the community of people, and the social fabric has been eroded (…) Another difficulty is financial, and the studio has definitely taken a hit financially, and it’s difficult to keep up a level of training,” Dugan said.
Dugan has found that the dancers and families at the studio have been a helpful aspect in keeping the studio running through these difficulties.
“I have been really impressed with the parents and families, all the dancers and their flexibility and loyalty, and willingness to support us. This has been tremendously inspiring for me because they’ve really come alongside us, and we always knew that that was there, but that’s been strengthened, and I’m grateful for that (…) I feel that God has called me to do this, and I think it goes beyond just providing novel lessons and dance to providing light and love and care,” Dugan said.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio
Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Redwood City has strived to maintain normality as best as possible throughout this constantly changing time. Supervisor Alex Doan believes in the importance of dance in many people’s lives. The studio has made an effort to create a performance aspect for the dancers and families, as they cannot currently do their normal events due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The studio has been able to find a unique way to keep the students involved and find as much normalcy as possible.
“We found a cool thing as far as events go because where our events would normally go in normal times, in theatre venues of 50 or 100 people, we can’t do anymore. What we do now is digital events, and people record their dance routines with their instructors, and then we have people that can watch from home, watch all of your community’s effort and hard work, put together from home,” Doan said.
Doan also stressed the importance of community in studios, or lack thereof, during this time. The standard group activity of dancing has been lacking this aspect, but the studio remains hopeful that things will return to normal as they make the best of what they’re given.
“Dancing is a community-type activity, which is a problem all on its own, and it is a face to face activity. That’s what we are, and it’s been tough to keep going, but we are doing everything as safely as possible so people can maintain their safety and continue their hobby,” Doan said.
Despite this lack of current community connection, Doan is hopeful for the future and believes that there is only time to make the best of what is given. By keeping this positive outlook, he is able to keep up the morale of the studio and work towards providing the best experience he currently can.
“We’re going to find ways to innovate, and we are much more active now digitally than we ever have been, and that has really helped to keep the community and dancing alive because it could have easily died. We’re not letting that happen,” Doan said.
The dance community has faced these unusual times with out-of-the-box thinking and openness to new perspectives and ideas. By keeping this important aspect of so many people’s lives alive and running, many have been able to keep their hopes up for a future of normality. Until then, dancers and studios will continue to work at their passion and use the creative outlet that is dance as best as they can.
“There are two ways you can go about things. You can either kind of cry about it and say how unfair life is, but then you go to stage two. And you say, okay, so now what? What are we going to do to move forward with things [….] We’re not people to just lay down and give up,” Doan said.