By Justin Flynn
Dance studios across the Bellarine are desperately seeking clarification from the state government on where they fall within the industry categories for COVID-19.
Amy Barrett, who is co-creative director of Ocean Grove’s FUSE Dance Company with Sam Collins, said dance studios had been “left in the dark” by the state government’s lockdown restrictions.
Ms Barrett said after the first COVID-19 lockdown, the Department of Justice, Precincts and Regions classified dance studios as ‘creative studios’, which meant they could continue operating under strict guidelines.
When Victoria returned for lockdown a second time, the department reclassified dance studios as ‘indoor community sport’, which meant they were not able to operate.
“On Saturday, September 19, dance schools, teachers, students and families all celebrated when AusDance Victoria announced that the Victorian Government has reclassified ‘dance studios’ from fitness centres back to the category of ‘creative studios’,” Ms Barrett said.
“Less than 24 hours later they rescinded on their classification and pushed us back to ‘indoor community sport’.
“This now means we are in the same category as gyms and cannot reopen until the final stage of restrictions are lifted. The current date of which is the end of November.
“This is usually the time dance schools pack up for summer and have their end of year celebration. If we cannot return to classes until the end of November, we won’t be opening until February 2021.”
Ms Barrett said dance is the number one after-school activity for girls in Victoria and studios had been practising COVID-19 safe policies for years before the pandemic.
“Our current campaign is for the government to reclassify dance schools again back to ‘creative studios’,” she said.
“At the moment children can run and interact in our local playgrounds sharing equipment. They can touch and tackle when playing football and netball yet are unable to attend a dance class where there is social distancing and minimal physical equipment.
“One of the first things a dancer is taught is safe dance space. Social distancing existed in dance schools before COVID-19 was even a thing.”
Ms Barrett said all dance schools on the Bellarine Peninsula are owned by locals who have lived in the area most of their lives and a majority have been operating for eight or more years.
“It was recently reported that 90 per cent of dance schools within Victoria are at risk of closure and won’t make it to the end of the year,” she said.
Sarah Booth said her three daughters have attended FUSE Dance Company for many years.
“It has played a vital role in their social, emotional physical development,” she said.
“One of my children has autism and dance provides her with a safe structured activity that allows her to grow, express herself and be herself.”