This is a hot topic of debate these days… some states are open and studio owners are raring to get back to business, and I understand… as a freelance Educator, my income and much of my summer work have been greatly affected (i.e., canceled), but the underlying question of ‘is it actually safe to be in a studio?’ prevails in my mind. For me, the answer is not yet; let me explain…
Many know, many do not; I had a presumed positive case of COVID, and it was terrifying – I wouldn’t wish it on my absolute worst enemy, let alone one of my students and their families, and I worry that by opening too soon, we potentially risk a metaphorical wildfire burning out of control; think about how fast the stomach flu spreads amongst your company dancers… this is that, but worse. One asymptomatic (or merely sniffly) dancer comes in, and all of a sudden there are families/teachers with illness.
A dance studio is a breeding ground for germs on its best day, and I am saying this as someone who’s favorite thing to do is lay down on the studio floor for extended periods of time (which I will not be doing for the foreseeable future), that the place that feels most like home is also most likely the place that got many of my colleagues sick. Dance studios are intimate, they are inspiring, they are my favorite place, and they also, realistically, are the perfect storm for illness to spread rapidly, with ease. Sweaty, heavy-breathing dancers in rooms that often lack proper ventilation, and a teacher who is all but screaming over the music… our allies, projection, and dance 'til you drop effort, are in this moment our nemeses, and respectfully, social distancing in a dance studio is simply not a thing, no matter how well you tape the floor off or try to keep dancers away from each other by 6 feet in all directions – we’re either taking risk, or we’re not, and at the end of the day, it’s the decision of how much of a risk is worth it.
How can we protect each other? Well, for starters, we can refrain from opening too soon; I’m appreciative to work for organizations that have successfully transitioned to Virtual classrooms; while not exactly the same as being in the studio together, they offer a wonderful experience, while keeping us safe. Could it be better? Sure. Could it be worse, absolutely. We can also reinforce mask-wearing in class once back into the studio since it is scientifically proven to reduce transmission (when we are allowed back into our beautiful NYC studios, I will be asking dancers who come to my classroom to wear them, and I will be wearing one, too!).
Lastly, for now, we can put the health and safety of our dancers, our colleagues, and ourselves at the forefront… for me, there is no discussion of which is more important, someone’s life or my livelihood, I will choose sparing someone from illness every time. To be candid, I find it uncomfortable that it is even a discussion, the argument that money somehow must win (and I am not independently wealthy, I promise), but here we are, and candidly, it makes me sad. I want to be back in the studio just as much as anyone else, but right now, I feel very strongly, the risk outweighs the reward.
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