Out of step restrictions leave dance schools in limbo

Suzie Ryrie watching her daughter Ella in their empty dance school, prior to mandatory masks. Pictures: GARY SISSONS 209441_20

Local dance studios are pleading with the Premier to allow them to reopen in line with schools, as the industry’s reopen date was pushed back, now classed alongside brothels and adult industries.

Confusion reigned as to the industry’s status in the road to reopen, after the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions reportedly declared to Ausdance they could reopen in Stage 3.

But that advice has since been retracted, with the State Government later confirming that dance studios were to remain closed until 23 November.

Suzie Ryrie, from Suzie Ryrie School of Dance in Berwick, implored the State Government to reconsider allowing dance schools to open in line with educational schools.

Since March, students have only returned to onsite dance lessons for one week. 209441_11

“We have vast open spaces in our studios and only have a fraction of students in each class as opposed to regular school classes,” she said.

“We can safely maintain distancing, as it is part of our tuition anyway, and the students do not share equipment except for a ballet barre which can easily be sanitised between students.

“Our client base is largely school aged and pre-school students who have been deemed safe throughout the pandemic. Our staff are all prepared to do whatever is deemed necessary to get these kids back into the studio doing something they love.”

Ms Ryrie was forced to shut her doors at the start of the pandemic in March and since then, has only had students attend on-site classes for one week.

“What is heartbreaking about this is we are working with these kids online and we see first hand the damaging affects that this prolonged shutdown has had on them over the past six months,” she explained.

Cathy-Lea Smith, director of Cathy-Lea Dance Music & Drama Works in Narre Warren, said dance schools just wanted a fair go.

“It is unreasonable and unfair to keep us closed to the last stage of the roadmap with gyms, which cater mainly for adults and use equipment and, among other things, brothels,” Ms Smith said.

“This government seems to perceive children’s dance and performing arts as trivial and frivolous yet dance is the second most popular activity for girls in Victoria.”

Ms Smith said the forced shutdown had effectively removed the dance industry’s annual goals and motivators for students.

Suzie Ryrie watching her daughter Ella in their empty dance school, prior to mandatory masks. Pictures: GARY SISSONS 209441_20

“This will have disastrous effects for many students for whom dance is a creative and physical outlet and crucial in supporting their health and wellbeing in these difficult times,” she added.

Liberal Gembrook MP Brad Battin said more than half of the industry had been ineligible for government support.

“The Andrews’ Labor Government should stop using their excessive powers to overrule the advice given to dance studios and their students and immediately reclassify dance studios as ‘creative studios’,” Mr Battin said.

“With over 1000 dance studios in Victoria employing over 5,000 Victorian’s, Daniel Andrews oversight in his government’s classification of dance studios could see not only the loss of studios and thousands of jobs, but opportunities for young people to keep fit and active.”