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Entertainment Unhappy feet: dance schools want barre lowered on restrictions

12:31  21 september  2020
12:31  21 september  2020 Source:   theage.com.au

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Dance studio operators and industry bodies Dance Arts Alliance and Ausdance have repeatedly sought clarification on their status after coronavirus restrictions "The restrictions make no sense, a child in regional Victoria can take a dance class in their school , play full-contact sport after school and go to

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a young girl jumping on a field: Gisborne Dance Academy Owner Sarah and student dancer Lataysha Roe. Regional dance studios and the Victorian Dance Art Alliance have come together in an effort to pressure the State Government to reconsider regional dance studios as community sport.    Photograph by Paul Jeffers The Age NEWS 19 Sep 2020 . © Paul Jeffers Gisborne Dance Academy Owner Sarah and student dancer Lataysha Roe. Regional dance studios and the Victorian Dance Art Alliance have come together in an effort to pressure the State Government to reconsider regional dance studios as community sport. Photograph by Paul Jeffers The Age NEWS 19 Sep 2020 .

Children in regional Victoria can once again head for school camp, they can play contact sport, but they cannot attend a ballet lesson.

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Furious dance studio owners are campaigning to be allowed to reopen their businesses - as they were following the first lockdown - after conflicting government advice on the new rules has left many operators confused and angry.

Dance studio operators and industry bodies Dance Arts Alliance and Ausdance have repeatedly sought clarification on their status after coronavirus restrictions eased in regional Victoria.

Following the first lockdown, dance studio operators were classified as "creative industries" and were allowed to open for lessons with social distancing restrictions, but their status is unclear under the state government's road map out of the second lockdown.

Correspondence from the Department of Jobs, Precinct and Regions and Business Victoria, seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, initially classified dance schools as "creative studios" that can operate under certain conditions.

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An Ausdance email to the Department of Jobs queried whether the rules for creative studios applied to dance studios and the answer was simply: "Yes, this does include dance studios."

That position was later "clarified" by the department as applying only to professional dance studios, with a limit of one person allowed on a premises at a time, and that dance schools would be classified as indoor community sport activities that cannot operate until the last step of the road map alongside gyms.

Dance Arts Alliance chairman Mike Harrison-Lamond said the inconsistency was "disgraceful" and had sparked concern among hundreds of operators about what might happen as Melbourne eased restrictions.

"The restrictions make no sense, a child in regional Victoria can take a dance class in their school, play full-contact sport after school and go to school camp, yet they can't come to a dance class in a professional facility," he said.

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"There is such a critical need for the government to review this right now. This industry provides incredibly important social, physical and mental development in the lives of young Victorians."

Since the end of March, Gisborne Dance Academy owner Sarah Morton has operated her dance studio for just three weeks and was expecting to reopen as restrictions eased in regional Victoria.

"I was so excited, I saw creative industries on the road map to recovery, yet we've been prohibited from reopening," she said.

With 320 students at the beginning of the year, Ms Morton was disappointed to see her attendance rate drop to 95 students after the first lockdown.

"It's really important for me to get my students back for their own physical and mental health," she said.

One of Ms Morton's students, Lataysha Roe, 12, said she did not understand why football had restarted while her dance studio remained closed.

"I think it's really unfair, I feel so disappointed, it's just not the same," she said.

After winning a full-tuition dance scholarship earlier this year, Lataysha was excited to get back to dancing but has spent most of the year learning through Zoom.

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"It's really intimidating learning through Zoom and it's hard to pick up choreography," she said.

BOLD Dance & Arts studio President Bobbie Hall was also preparing to reopen her East Gippsland studio as regional Victoria eased restrictions, and this week started a petition, which has amassed more than 11,000 signatures, calling for a change to the policy.

"Starting a petition was the last straw. I got mad after hearing Daniel Andrews' announcement this week," she said. "There are a lot of dance studios facing closure if we can't reopen."

A government spokesman said the information on the rules had been consistent.

"Decisions on the operation of indoor facilities, including gymnastics and dance studios for amateur participants, will continue to be based on public health advice," a government spokesperson said.

Dance Arts Alliance vice-chair Melanie Gard said the recent announcement of $3000 grants for sole traders was the first bit of support Victorian dance studios had received.

"It's a tragically small amount of money given many businesses have been shut since March, $3000 will barely cover a few weeks of rent in a commercial property," she said.

Ausdance Victoria research shows over 50 per cent of dance schools have not received financial support from federal or state governments.

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