Cheer practices yes. Dance classes, no.
What is allowed under a temporary tightening of COVID-19 precautions in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal health regions appears to depend on what is, and is not, an officially recognized sport in B.C.
Callers to Lisa’s School of Dance in Langley are hearing a message that the studio has been closed down for two weeks due to just-announced new restrictions and video classes will start on Nov. 16.
Owner Lisa Dew said the shutdown has been “absolutely devastating to my business.”
“The mental and physical well-being of my students are also being jeopardized.”
”It doesn’t make sense to me that gymnastics and cheer classes can still run but yoga, dance and other indoor activities that are following strict protocols are being made to close,” Dew told the Langley Advance Times.
She said the school has gone above and beyond to adhere to all requirements, “keeping our students completely socially distanced, wearing masks, sanitizing, the list goes on.”
“We’re dancing in six-by-six squares.”
“I did sign the petition regarding this being an unjust closure,” Dew said.
“It doesn’t make sense to me.”
As of Tuesday, Nov. 10, close to 6,000 people have signed a Change.Org petition to “Reopen Dance Schools in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health” that asks for the words words ‘dance classes’ to be removed from the provincial health order.
“Although dance is not a sport, it is a physical activity that we, as owners, have managed to provide safely while maintaining social distancing since June 1st,” organizer Denise Akester said.
“It is unfair for us to be targeted. We have suffered from March onwards as we have navigated COVID protocols with no overseeing sports or arts organization, with decreased participation due to reluctant parents and little rent relief as it was left optional for our landlords.”
“To ask us to close again, even for two weeks, while schools and other child-centric activities stay open is unreasonable, unfair, and unwarranted.”
Lisa Bosch, owner of Xtreme Cheer and Dance in Langley, has been required to cancel dance practices at her facility – while cheer workouts continue.
“We are horribly confused by the fact that our cheer gym can stay open, but the same kids can’t take their dance class,” Bosch told the Langley Advance Times.
Bosch sent a letter to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that lists the precautions Xtreme has been taking, which range from separate entrances, with health checks at every entrance.
Bosch stressed that she wasn’t angry at Dr. Henry, but wanted her to know that her business is making every effort.
Staff are tested with a non-contact thermometer, there are multiple containers of sanitizer, and studio designated bathrooms to cut down cross-contamination.
“They are cleaned repeatedly,” Bosch noted.
“All athletes (Dancers are athletes!) wear masks for every class,” she added.
Xtreme has taped off spaces on every floor to maintain social distancing.
“We clean everything including the floors/mats between every class with a hospital grade cleaner,” Bosch elaborated.
“This cleaner alone costs us $800 a month.”
“What more can we do?” Bosch asked.
For Langley Cheer and Athletics Gym, which doesn’t conduct dance classes, the tightening of restrictions has meant a return to the initial weeks under COVID-19 rules, when classes were allowed, but athletes had to maintain safe distancing.
It was disappointing for the kids, owner Leanna Fisher said, because they had finally been able to “stunt” again, getting close enough to form human pyramids.
“They still had to wear masks,” Fisher noted.
“We were in the last stage [of restrictions] now we have to go back to first stage.”
Fisher said the difference between cheer and dance is that one is a recognized sport “like minor hockey” and the other isn’t.
“It’s very confusing.”
Because dance is not considered a sport, and doesn’t have an sports-like association to speak for it, it doesn’t get the same consideration, Fisher explained.
“I feel awful for them [dance studios], Fisher commented.
Langley Cheer and Athletics Gym did have to cancel its Parkour course due to the tightened rules, Fisher added.
Group indoor fitness such as dance, yoga and spin classes in in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal health regions have been suspended until Nov. 23, a temporary two-week tightening of safety measures that could be extended depending on the COVID-19 transmission evidence.
It was announced on Saturday, Nov. 7, after after the B.C. Centre for Disease Control announced 567 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, with most of the new cases in the two regions.
As well, new restrictions do not allow the “safe six” group of friends to visit private homes, except for people who live alone and have one or two people they regularly spend time with, equivalent to household members.
It comes after the Fraser Health Public Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Capella Dance Academy in Chilliwack
To date, 26 individuals at the dance academy have tested positive for COVID-19.
Capella Dance Academy voluntarily closed on Oct. 28, 2020.
People are being reminded by health authorities to do their part to prevent COVID-19 transmission in the community by staying home when they are sick, practicing physical distancing, washing their hands frequently, and keeping their social circle small and consistent.