Dance studios made to wait

By Steph McNicol

WHILE COVID-19 restrictions have eased in regional Victoria, allowing some sporting activities to restart, RPA Studios owner Rhiannon Johnson is disappointed her dancing school is unable to reopen.

In regional Victoria under the third step of the State Government’s roadmap to recovery, outdoor, non-contact sporting activities are allowed in groups of up to 10 people – with social distancing measures in place.

Ms Johnson has three studios, in Kilmore, Beveridge, and Craigieburn, all of which had to close mid-March during the first wave of COVID-19.

“We understand the measures have been put in place to protect the community and the safety of our dancers is our main priority, but we just miss them, and the social aspect. We want to get back into the studio as soon as possible,” Ms Johnson said.

“It has been really hard on everyone. The students have missed out on so much this year. It really makes you appreciate all the little things, like long boring days waiting for our turn at dance competitions – we’d love to do that right now.

“I miss the students’ faces lighting up when costumes arrive and this year, we won’t see the confidence the students gain after performing in their first concert.

“Luckily, we have some really tech-savvy teachers who have adapted well and are doing a great job teaching classes via online tutorials and live Zoom classes.”

One of Ms Johnson’s students, Alyssa Milne, 13, said dance schools should reopen and she wanted to return to class.

“It makes me upset. I like to dance and now I can only do a little bit. We are now allowed to go to school and dance at school,” she said.

“We had online classes all term two and three and got to have private lessons during the term two holidays, but it’s not the same as we don’t have much room in our house to do it.”

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said dancing schools, like other indoor exercise activities, were a high-risk activity for transmission.

“Indoor physical recreation facilities, including dance schools, are currently closed under Victorian restrictions as the nature of exercising in an indoor space carries a high risk of transmission due to sweat and heavy breathing, as well as shared equipment,” the spokesperson said.

“Private dance studios also pose added risk, as they involve different members of the community mixing within an enclosed space.

“Under both the regional Victoria and the metropolitan Melbourne roadmaps, indoor physical recreation facilities are scheduled to reopen in the Last Step.

“The last step is expected to start from November 23, subject to having no new cases and public health advice.

“We understand everyone is making huge sacrifices and that the closure of gyms, dance schools and other indoor physical recreation facilities have been difficult, but this strategy is working, and we are driving cases down.”

More information is available online regarding restrictions on the DHHS website.

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