Teens working at Heartbeat Dance Academy find new opportunities


Sasha Heinemann

Dancers from Advanced Pre Ballet participate in an in-person class at Heartbeat Dance Academy.

COVID-19 has caused numerous negative impacts on many aspects of life. However, these negative experiences have opened more new windows than expected. Though many businesses have felt an economic impact from the virus, teenagers have had the chance to get jobs, take on more responsibility, and gain new opportunities.

Heartbeat Dance Academy, based in Belmont, California, is one such place. When COVID-19 struck, the directors had to make numerous changes to create a comfortable environment for both students and staff. 

Heartbeat, like many other facilities, lost a large number of dancers due to the pandemic. However, despite the loss, some teens have experienced positive aspects of their jobs. 

Sasha Heinemann, a senior at Carlmont High School and a dancer at Heartbeat Dance Academy, says her work as their social media manager has been a fantastic opportunity for her. The pandemic has caused new challenges for her to overcome, and she feels she gained new skills through the process.  

“The job suddenly became less personal, as I was no longer able to interact with the dancers in person. I had to rethink the ways I was used to creating content from in-person learning. I am now more focused on finding the balance between showing how Heartbeat is safe and still fun. It is a challenge, but it made me better at finding different ways to do things,” Heinemann said. 

Having a social job at a young age, and having those experiences are critical to one’s future. Losing these character-shaping jobs could significantly impact young people’s future. Although most teens don’t have to stress about paying rent or taxes, it is a good opportunity and learning experience.  Many teens are experiencing their first job in the pandemic and have to deal with unprecedented challenges in the workplace. 

Unfortunately, as the pandemic worsens, job opportunities are drying up.  Business closures due to spikes in the virus close off many chances for teenagers to get jobs.

San Mateo County has entered the purple tier, which means that many facilities have to stop in-person gatherings. At Heartbeat Dance Academy, for example, there will be a temporary shutdown of all in-person classes. Some employees at Heartbeat are working to find new ways to make money because they are no longer needed on Zoom meeting rehearsals. 

For people like Cameron Blucher, finding a new job during this time is very difficult. Blucher has worked as a teacher-assistant for Heartbeat Dance Academy since 2014. She also used to babysit for many different families, but that is no longer possible due to health concerns. 

“Before the pandemic, I babysat almost every weekend. One family I regularly babysat was very fearful of the virus, so I could no longer work with them. I was very disappointed because my babysitting job is where I earned the majority of my money,” Blucher said.

The new demand for teen assistants has given more of our dancer’s job experience as well as helping our teachers during class.”

— Mollie Nash

As for Heartbeat Dance Academy, Mollie Nash, the director, states that she continuously works to maintain a positive learning environment for her dancers during in-person or virtual classes. Nash explains how there have been new opportunities for teen dancers looking for their first job at Heartbeat. Heartbeat has offered more classes to more teens because of the drastic changes they have had to make. 

“Now that there is so much technology surrounding every class, the teachers need as much help as they can get. The new demand for teen assistants has given our dancers a job experience while helping our teachers during class,” Nash said. “Though sometimes as simple as checking the dancer’s temperature or taking attendance, teen assistants take off a great amount of pressure and stress work during class.”