*Shea and Clementine Egan are taking virtual dance classes (Photo: Supplied, Rebecca Egan)
Dance schools are calling for clarity from the NSW Government even as lockdown restrictions relax over the coming weeks and months.
Teachers and students are confused if, or when, they can continue face to face dance lessons because there is no NSW Government communication that specifically recognises the unique circumstances in which dance schools operate.
The NSW Health website lists educational intuitions as “open” and indoor recreation facilities as “closed”. But dance schools fall under both categories, creating confusion around which definition applies.
Ablaze Dance Academy owner Bergan Lavelle, stopped face-to-face dance lessons as soon as the restrictions were introduced in March. But she believes the fact that many NSW dance schools are still operating, shows the level of confusion.
“I contacted my local MP and they said that we are classified as ‘indoor sporting’ and also a place of gathering for children. So, even though we have the space to facilitate social distancing, it didn’t matter, and we needed to shut down,” she said.
Central News contacted NSW Health to ask what advice they are giving dance schools. A spokesperson responded: “…this enquiry can’t be answered by NSW Health and should be directed to the Department of Customer Service”.
But The Department of Customer Service said to contact NSW Health.
The West Australian Government became the only state to acknowledge dance schools when it released it’s latest information for the public.
This came after Perth based dance teacher Jessica Newall asked her followers to call for recognition via WA Premier Mark McGowan’s Facebook page.
Tracy Caldwell, co-owner of Newcastle Dance Academy, agrees that the lack of representation for the Arts, in all levels of government, has filtered down to create confusion in this situation.
“There is absolutely no representation on a state or national level,” she said. “It’s all about sports all the time and nobody is recognising this (dance) is an education for children.”
For many dance schools that have closed their doors, lessons have continued online.
Rebecca Egan has two children who attend dance lessons at Newcastle Dance Academy. “It has been a real challenge finding space in the house and keeping the kids motivated throughout their lessons” she said. “I know the kids really miss the social aspect of their dance lessons.”
In addition to the challenges of accommodating online dance lessons, many parents are starting to question why their children can go to school but not to their dance class.
“As a parent you have more of an understanding of who is attending the dance studio as opposed to who is attending the school.” Ms Egan said. “The dance studio my children attend has more space to facilitate social distancing than their public school does.”
To add to the confusion, some dance schools are classified as Registered Training Organisations (RTO) and are therefore exempt from government restrictions according to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).
Its website states: “The Australian Government has placed certain restrictions on gatherings and businesses. Currently, these restrictions do not apply to education institutions.”
Several Sydney based schools registered through ASQA, with classes of 20-50 students over the age of 18, are continuing with face-to-face lessons.
ASQA’s website recommends each RTO decide what is appropriate for their institution and says they must “ensure there is ample space in the classroom between people, for example by ensuring desks/work stations are adequately separated (four square metres)”.
Tracy Caldwell’s dance courses are also registered through the ASQA.
“It’s all very confusing,” she said. “It is very disappointing that we are being left out. I’d like some idea of what’s right and wrong so we can continue safely.”
— Toni Ambrogetti @toniambrogetti