By Shelby Brooks
IN Leongatha, sequins are being glued to tutus with the hope that dancers can return to the studio for term four.
Lisa Pellin of Lisa Pellin Dancers is fighting for dance studios to be reclassified on the COVID-19 roadmap as a creative studio, which would allow them to open now – in line with Step Three.
Currently, regional dance studios have been classified with gyms, set to reopen November 23 but that’s not a guarantee.
“Part of the problem is that the government hasn’t given us clarification, and at the moment every piece of information we can find is based on the fact we are alongside gyms,” Lisa said.
“The problem is there is really no comparison between us and a gym.
“You can’t attend a gym if you’re under 16. Whereas here, all our students are under 18.”
The studio, like many others in regional Victoria, has social distancing dots for students to dance on, does not involve contact between children and does not involve sharing equipment.
“Our industry has always followed schools… but now we don’t have a governing body in parliament or even an arts sector, it’s very hard to work out what’s going on,” Lisa said.
Lisa said as schools return, so will their dance, theatre and drama programs.
“It makes no sense to us that we can’t reopen and its gut-wrenching,” she said.
“Our argument is outdoor contact sport is allowed for under 18s.
“If those kids can be playing a contact sport outside, I cannot see what difference it could be to have students in a controlled environment where we have the room and the space to social distance and it’s not contact.”
Rowena Campbell, principal of Phillip Island Dance Studio, agreed.
She has 120 eager young dance students ready to go.
“Ballet and dance – it’s not a gym. It’s not sport,” Rowena said.
At the end of term two, dance studios were deemed safe to return before the second wave hit and shut everything down again.
“The children were fantastic [for those three weeks],” Rowena said.
“They stood on their dots and readily adapted to social distancing.”
Rowena doesn’t understand why the position on the safety of dance schools has changed.
“Deep down I’m hoping we’ll be heard. We’re safer than a supermarket, safer than Big W,” she said.
For the remainder of term three, Rowena held free Zoom classes for her students.
“It was more to keep the kids engaged in dance,” she said.
“Our main aim was to hold a concert at the end of the year for the students by having them perform at the Wonthaggi Arts Centre without an audience, film it and send it home on a DVD.”