Prairie Post (East Edition)
Swift Current dance studios looking forward to exciting new season
The two dance studios in Swift Current are looking forward to an exciting new dance season, but they will be ready for any new challenges due to the uncertain COVID-19 situation.
Both studios are starting the new season in early September and a variety of classes are offered for the 2021-22 season until next May.
Melissa Wallace, the owner and artistic director of The Dance Studio, feels optimistic about the new season.
“I think it’s going to be a great season,” she said. “I’m optimistic that things are going to be better this year.”
She added that a lot of the health and safety protocols used during the previous dance season will remain in place.
“We already had lots of cleaning that we were doing and this last year we’ve upped that and added extra cleaning,” she said. “So that’s going to stay. We’re going to offer masks as an option if everybody is feeling more comfortable wearing them and that’s definitely something that will be available to them.”
She added that extra hand sanitizer is available all over the studio and the studio will continue to use other procedures that were implemented last year, for example the arrangements to keep the clothing and shoes of students organized and separated.
“So things like that we’re going to keep to help everybody feel like we’re not just going totally back to pre-pandemic and at the same time it will be really nice to dance without the squares on the floor,” she said.
Backstage Dance Co. owner Renee Skeoch is also looking forward to the new season and expected some measures will still be required.
“I think I’m pessimistically optimistic,” she said. “I’m planning for sure to have them wear a mask when they come in. I’m waiting to see what’s going to happen by the time I start. So I want them to wear a mask into the waiting room and dressing room at this point, and I still have to see whether we feel we should use two entrances again.”
She noted that dancing arrangements will be determined by the situation when classes resume, and adjustments will be made where necessary.
I would like them to be able to dance without a mask in the studio,” she said. “So then we might think of the two metre distance, and after going through that last year, they have the idea of how far apart they have to be. We’re kind of taking step by step, being ready to pivot. If the numbers are still really going up, we might have to do something.”
Both dance studios have a lot of practical experience to fall back on after completing a full dance season under public health regulations, which also became stricter midway during the 2020-21 year.
“The dancers are all very resilient and adaptable and they’re really great at going with what’s needed to stay safe and healthy and still be able to dance and enjoy class with their friends,” Wallace said. “We had lots of classes where they were working really hard, but also laughing lots. So if we could make it through last year like that, then I’m really optimistic.”
Both studios had to shut down in-person dance classes after the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and they then faced the dilemma of what to do next. Skeoch posted details about online classes for dancers to try out and some educational information on her studio’s Facebook page, and then made the difficult decision to terminate the season and issue refunds for two months of classes.
“It was one of the hardest things to do,” she recalled. “I spent two weeks of manic how do I fix this and two weeks of grieving that I couldn’t, because once you do some reading about pandemics, you know it’s not going to be done in two weeks. So it was mentally and emotionally hard to actually give up.”
Wallace decided to offer online Zoom classes as an option for students until the end of May 2020, and she appreciated the efforts by dancers to adjust to a new reality.
“The dancers and the parents were all really great about making that transition, even though it was a huge change and everybody was at home and cramped into their living room or bedroom,” she said. “Everybody found a spot to make it work.”
Both dance studios resumed classes in September 2020 with adjustments to adhere to public health
guidelines in place at the time.
“We were really lucky, because we were able to stay in studio and do in-person classes for the entire season, and if any of the dancers were unwell or had to be isolating or if they had a family member that was feeling unwell, then those dancers took class on Zoom,” Wallace said.
The arrangements at Backstage Dance Co. also included an option for dancers to participate via Zoom, which was used by students who are immunocompromised as well as other who had to quarantine. Skeoch noted the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Dance Teachers Association was very helpful with the development of COVID-19 protocols for dance studios.
There were so many details that needed attention, from taped squares on the studio floors to ensure physical distancing during classes to limits on class sizes later during the season, and increased cleaning and sanitization procedures.
“At our studio we set up two entrances so that classes never crossed each other when they came in and out,” she said. “I’ve never washed floors so much in my life. It was the hardest year I’ve ever done in my over 40 years of teaching.”
Dance exams and competitions were completed online, and both studios also had to be innovative when they planned an alternative to the traditional recital at the end of the season. The Dance Studio students performed their recitals in the studio with masks on while family members watched online via Zoom. Backstage Dance Co. created a recital video of student performances, which was then screened to families during a drive-in show held in the Kinetic Park parking lot.
Both studio owners felt the 2020-21 season was a success and students were still able to learn and enjoy their dancing.
“It took a little creative thinking and a different approach from everybody’s end, from the teachers and from the students,” Wallace said. “So it was definitely a change in the approach to the teaching, but all of our students who were above our pre-school level did at least one exam and some of them did numerous exams. We had lots of dancers who did exams in every style. They all worked just as hard or harder with the masks as they normally would and they were all very successful in their exams and they adapted to the new version of doing Zoom exams.”
For Skeoch it was personally a challenge, because she is a very hands-on type teacher, and she also felt the changes were perhaps harder for the younger dancers.
“So it was difficult, but you were still able to progress their skill,” she said. “My main thing with the kids always is that they learn a love of dance and that it makes them happy to dance. That’s what I want.”
The new 2021-22 dance season started Sept. 7 and classes offered at the two studios are similar to the programs and styles available last year. There are classes from tiny tots level to options for adults.
The Dance Studio rebranded its programs for the new season. It includes new recreational classes as well as new 10-week session classes. Full details are available on The Dance Studio website at www.tdsswiftcurrent.com