The owner of an Abbotsford dance studio is dismayed that dance classes have been impacted by the latest COVID-19 provincial health order while activities such as gymnastics and cheerleading remain open.
Maureen Keyes of Xtreme Talent Dance Company said her studio and others around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley have gone beyond what was required of them to keep students and staff safe.
She said they don’t know what more they can do, and they have had difficulty getting answers from the authorities.
Keyes said it’s “heartbreaking” that Capella Dance Studio in Chilliwack has had 38 COVID-19 cases linked to them, in what Fraser Health termed a “super-spreader event.”
“The reality is we feel strongly that what we’re doing is safe, and we know what she (the Capella Dance Studio owner) did was safe. We’re just heartbroken, and it’s unfortunate that it happened at a dance studio because for my business that’s detrimental, but it can happen anywhere,” Keyes said.
She said at her dance studio, classes are limited to about half the number of students compared to pre-COVID. Squares measuring six by six feet are taped off on the floor to indicate where students must stand to physically distance.
Keyes said all students and teachers wear masks, except kids of elementary school age and younger for whom face coverings are not mandatory in schools.
Her site also operates a daycare, and a cleaning crew is on hand every day to sanitize the premises, while instructors regularly spray down the dance floors and all their own equipment with disinfectant.
Keyes said hand sanitizer is used by all those in the building, including when they enter the facility or they move to a different studio.
She said dance schools across the region stay in contact with one another – through video conferencing – and talk about what measures they are following, and any new ideas they might have.
Keyes said keeping dance studios open is as important to the students’ mental health as is school and sports.
“It’s more of a studio culture; it’s your best friends. It’s the connection you make with your teachers over a lifespan,” she said.
“I just feel like that connection that kids need or that place to go where they feel they can be themselves during this time is so important.”
Longtime students Emma Ellery, 17, and Raeha Boier, 15, both said their mental health suffered when the pandemic restrictions first hit in mid-March and the dance studio was shut down until June 1.
They did some dance classes through Zoom, but it wasn’t the same, they said.
“It kind of felt like a part of me was missing, not being able to come here to dance every day with everybody I’ve been with for most of my life … Not having that escape was really hard for me,” Ellery said.
Boier said the biggest impact on her was on her mental state – “It really took me down” – but getting back in the studio made all the difference.
“It felt really good to just come home,” she said.
The latest provincial health order, in place for at least two weeks, includes the suspension of “sports and indoor physical activities” such as dance classes, spin classes, yoga, boxing, martial arts and hockey.