Owners of dance studios in Ontario’s COVID-19 hot spots are being allowed to reopen their businesses.
Ontario Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Minister Lisa MacLeod made the announcement on Twitter Monday evening.
“I can confirm that indoor dance classes can resume in modified Stage 2 regions after a decision taken by our government with the advice of the (Chief Medical Officer of Health) and the Ministry of Health,” MacLeod said.
“All participants must be pre-registered and maintain at least two metres apart.”
As part of a modified version of Stage 2 announced earlier this month for Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Ottawa, dance studios were initially forced to shut down in those areas.
In response to the shutdown, an online petition demanding that “the unfair targeting of our children’s dance studios … be stopped” garnered more than 25,000 signatures.
The petition asked that “the words ‘dance studios’ be removed from the modified Stage 2 closures list where they have been unfairly lumped in with adult fitness classes.”
In Peel and York regions, some dance studios already started to reopen prior to MacLeod’s announcement, pointing to approval by local public health units.
ViBE Dance in Thornhill told Global News, “The person at public health provided confirmation that we are doing everything at ViBE (if not more) and can remain open following the safety protocols.”
Global News reached out to MacLeod for an interview earlier Monday but she declined to comment.
Instead, she tweeted, “There is only one provincial order for all regions in modified Stage 2 and until it is amended, hopefully soon, that order stands.”
Premier Doug Ford also later said he was a “big supporter” of the dance studios and added that he would be discussing the issue with the chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams and cabinet.
Meanwhile, Linette Doherty of The Space on Danforth Avenue and other studio owners drafted ‘dance safe guidelines’ that include more frequent cleaning, health checks, masks, and “taping out areas on the floor so each dancer is dancing in their own square.”
Kristen Dennis is the owner of Leslieville School of Dance and Music.
She invested in expensive air purifiers for every room at her studio, hired more staff and capped class sizes before having to shut down.
“For me to walk down the street and see the local martial arts studio open and to hear about all of the sports going ahead and gymnastics as well with modifications, it’s really hard to deal with because we have put so many modifications and new protocols in place to keep everyone safe,” she told Global News.
When she found out that the studios would be allowed to reopen, she said she was relieved.
“For the sake of our mental and physical health as dancers and arts educators, and for that of our students as well, we are so thrilled to hear this announcement,” Dennis said.
Elizabeth Snell, owner of Artists Play, was also confused by the initial closure.
“They must think we are dancing together,” she said. “Why can gymnastics training, soccer training, hockey training happen and we can’t do dance training?”
She said she was very happy to hear of the restrictions lifting.
“I am so happy for our students. There will be so many very happy dancers.”