ike many businesses in North Grenville, the Workshop Dance Studio has had to work hard to adapt to the changing atmosphere of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Owner, Nancy Morgan, chose to shut down the studio on March 16, a few days before it was officially mandated by the government. Like many people, for the first two weeks she was just trying to wrap her head around what was happening; but she soon decided to try and start running online classes, to offer at least something to her students. “A store was open,” she remembers. “I walked in and I got a microphone and a webcam, and then from there I was able to offer classes online with just those two things.”
Since then, her system has become a lot more intricate, and her husband, Chris Morgan, built her a technology stand to house her multiple monitors, microphones, and webcam. Nancy ran as many classes as she could online from April 1 to August, when she was able to open the studio to in-class students under Ontario’s Stage 3 of re-opening. Getting the studio ready to welcome students back into the physical space was a huge undertaking, as Nancy had to rearrange the entire space to ensure that physical distancing and proper cleaning protocols could be observed.
Surprisingly, dance studios fall under the same category as weddings and funerals, not fitness centres. This means that students have to keep their masks on throughout the class. “The rules and regulations that Anytime Fitness has to follow are different than what I have to follow,” Nancy says. “If they were to go to a wedding, or a church function, anything that is in a wedding and funeral environment, they have to wear masks. Same with my studio.”
So far, there has been no push back from any of her students about wearing masks, as they are very happy to be back in the studio again. However, to help make sure students are comfortable, Nancy offers free face cages that create structure around the mouth inside the mask to make breathing easier while dancing.
Nancy now offers 20 classes a week, which she runs both in-person and virtually. In-person students must pre-register online and sign in once they get to the studio, for contact tracing purposes. Under the current regulations, each class allows for ten students, and the room is set up so that participants can be physically distanced while taking the class.
The online platform is run through a website called Patreon, where people can sign up for $20/month and have access to all The Workshop classes. If students aren’t able to make it to the live class, they are also recorded, so they can do it on their own time. Nancy hopes that $20/month is affordable for people who are struggling financially right now due to the pandemic. “You could take a live class, or a recorded class, every day and, even if you only do 15 minutes of it, you’re doing something right. So, I’m hoping that has been an encouragement for some people.”
Nancy has become used to the heightened cleaning protocols and the physical distancing requirements that are mandatory for her to remain open. She thinks the hardest part about running a dance studio during COVID-19 is the “doomsday” feeling that’s ever present, and not knowing whether she will be shut down again due to a second wave. “I spend a lot of time thanking my clients, because they really have been amazing. None of them have been giving me grief over anything. You get burnt out; but if I wasn’t doing this, I’d be a mess.”
Nancy encourages everyone to make sure they are making physical activity a priority, especially as we head into the winter months. She is a bit worried about some of her students who have not returned to classes, because she knows how important moving your body is for your mental and physical health, whether it be at her studio, or one of the fitness studios in town, or even just going for a walk in the Ferguson Forest Centre. “You’ve got to try and get 30 minutes of something in a day. Turn off the doomsday television, step away from social media as best you can, stop schooling and do something.”
The Workshop Dance Studio currently offers classes six days a week for adults of all ages. To learn more about the studio, or to book a class, visit their website www.theworkshopdancestudio.com.
Hilary Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times