After Quebec announced tens of millions of dollars in help for sports and recreation organizations last week, Quebec’s dance academies say they were left out in the cold.
Dance teachers argue their operations provide many of same benefits as sports teams do for youth.
Shannon Figsby would usually have 791 students, the vast majority of them girls, coming in and out of the doors of her Elite Dance Academy in Ile-Perrot. Like all dance schools in Quebec, hers has been closed since early October.
“What is being taken away from these kids, who I consider high-level athletes, is starting to become completely immeasurable,” Figsby said.
“They come here after a bad day and they just like they dance it out, you know? Not being able to do that, you’re kind of holding it in a lot of the time,” said longtime Elite Dance Academy student and now instructor Chloe Taillefer.
Dance studios in the COVID-19 red zone were ordered to shut their doors once again at the beginning of the month.
“$20,000 left my bank account in a matter of minutes,” Figsby said.
The director of Quebec’s Dance Education Network says 430 dance schools are closed.
“130,000 students are without dance classes right now,” said network director Véronique Clément.
She says dance schools are getting no help from Quebec.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic we are stuck in this limbo,” said Clément. She said it’s unclear if dance schools fall under the responsibility of the culture, economy or sports ministries, complicating matters.
Figsby was furious last Thursday as Quebec’s Sports Minister announced $70 million to help sports organizations.
“A million dollars per major junior hockey team is a really hard pill to swallow,” she said.
A spokesperson for Quebec’s Culture Ministry said officials are working toward a solution.
“The Minister of Culture is actively working to find solutions to respond to the particular issues being lived by dance schools,” said spokesperson Louis-Julien Dufresne.
A spokesperson for the Economy Minister said dance studios should be eligible for an assistance program geared toward businesses in red zones, but according to the dance studios that hasn’t worked.
“Dance schools that tried to have this help, they called us to say they were not eligible,” explained Clément.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s Culture Minister said on Twitter Sunday she is working to reopen dance studios.
Figsby has stringent sanitary measures, including temperature checks and hourly sanitization.
“To be in a dance studio right now is safer than being in a school classroom,” she claims.
She says her biggest worry is for the mental and physical health of her dance-deprived students.View link »