Dance Got Them Through Tough Times Before

There was a piece on Vox today that I jumped on with interest because the title seemed to imply it was about a family run dance school applying for the Paycheck Protection Program.  I should have just read the subtitle more closely. There are only a couple of sentences about their interaction with the PPP near the end of the article and the subtitle summarizes it pretty well:  The bank rejected them for not having a pre-existing business relationship and now they are waiting on an application submitted through an online broker.

The rest of the piece is worth reading because it emphasizes the importance of developing relationships with your constituency. The mother and daughter running the Connecticut dance school have adults and children paying to take dance class via Zoom. (The other daughter also teaches in the school, but is on maternity leave and wasn’t interviewed.) I have talked to dance schools in my local area and they bemoan the difficulty of teaching over video. One woman says her non-touch screen video display has fingerprints all over it because she keeps trying to correct her students’ postures as she would for an in-person class.

For the CT dance school in the Vox article, they had an outstanding obligation to offer the children’s class because parents had pre-paid through June. The adult classes are run on a drop-in basis, but there is enough of a demand for both live and taped classes for that age group. According to the owners of the school, there is a lengthy social period built in before and after the formal class session where students catch up with each other.

From how they talk about the evolution of their school, it appears this sense of community developed over years of their in-person classes.

Founder Linda Freyer says,

So we started teaching adults in the morning and children in the afternoon — and the adults wanted this art form, they wanted to learn classical ballet, and they became passionate. I have adults that started, who never had dance training as children, and with a lot of work and discipline I got them en pointe. In toe shoes. They never believed that could happen! I have women who are still dancing with me 25 years later. We have gone through deaths of parents, we have gone through breast cancer, we have gone through brain tumors, we have gone through divorces, we have gone through so many life-changing crises, and they find solace coming to this ballet class.

[…]

We are such a community — I was teaching a class on the morning of 9/11, and it was adults, and people were drifting in saying, “Did you hear? Did you hear?” We were shell-shocked. And I remember one dancer saying, “Do you want to just cancel class?” We were speechless. And one of our students looked at the group and said, “Please teach us, Linda. I have a funny feeling this class will be the highlight of the next period of time.” So I turned off the news and I taught that class, and I will tell you — the gals who were in that class still talk about it.

Petra, the daughter who was also interviewed for the article mentioned she had danced all the way through college, but started a career in finance before deciding it wasn’t for her and pursued training in dance education. Petra’s story along with her mother’s discussion of adult students developing their skills to a place they could dance en pointe reminded me of a post I wrote on Lisa Mara who started a dance company for people who loved dance enough maintain their dance practice, but were pursuing other avenues as a career. The interview in Vox made it sound like the dance school had similarly cultivated an environment for adults who wished to rigorously pursue an avocation in dance.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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