The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically and dramatically altered the way we used to live our lives. “Wear a mask, Clean your hands, Keep a safe distance” are the advice given by the World Health Organization in order to prevent the spreading of the virus. While many industries are being impacted by lockdown restrictions, the cultural sector is unable to anticipate the future. The survival of dance, which implies presence, physical contacts and often takes place in close spaces might even be threatened.
“Whether employed or freelance, workers in the cultural sector, who are often in an already precarious situation, are facing a sudden and dramatic loss of income”, the European Dance House Network reports. As gatherings and encounters were prohibited or reduced to just a few people, many dance schools, academies and studios were forced to shut their doors, leaving owners, dance teachers and students completely helpless and uncertain regarding their future. They could not do anything and governments seemed to have forgotten them.Consequently, one question started to emerge from the situation:
As a school/academy/studio owner, how can I maintain my business?
If for some, the lockdown only had small consequences, for others, it turned out to be the beginning of the end. Movement Lifestyle was a dance studio located in North Hollywood, CA. It was owned by Filipino-American professional dancer, Shaun Evaristo. Since 2012, it served as a home for creators, dancers and teachers from all around the world.
After governor Gavin Newsom ordered the lockdown of the state of California on Thursday, March 19th , Evaristo knew that maintaining the studio afloat would require an important help from the community. On April 2020, he set an online 24-hour fundraiser event called MoveAthon to cover one month of expenses and to keep ML from being shut down for good.
In total, $66 326 were raised which turned out to be superior to the initial “target” amount ($50 000). But on September,20th, Evaristo took his Instagram account to announce the permanent shut down: “(…) I am here to officially announce the closure of our studio, here at Movement Lifestyle(…) announcing this is probably one of the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. Financially this was the best option for us as a business. (…) We had a successful Movathon with you, the whole community backed us and that let us to sustain for the past few months and thank you for all of that. But with the lockdown and everything that has been going on, we cannot continue this way (…)”. With no incomes and rents, utilities, teachers and staffs to pay, it was impossible to survive. In France, the situation is also quite similar. Just like Movement Lifestyle, Studio MRG, a dance studio/school based in the Parisian suburb seems pessimistic regarding its future: “(…) We will not endanger people’s health by going against the law. We might certainly lose our school but at least, we remained faithful to our convictions”, they wrote on their Instagram account when, back in March, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the lockdown of the country. Although for a few months the sanitary situation seemed to improve, allowing dance spaces to reopen, it was not long before it went back to closure. Sadly, everyone knows what this means.
And despite the 5,5 billions of euros planned by French Prime Minister Jean Castex to support the cultural sector, the dance community will not remain the same.