‘Dancers deserve the right to practice too’

By Aideen O'Flaherty

THERE has been a mixed reaction from performing arts teachers to the government’s decision to allow dance training to take place in pods of one, following on from a silent protest outside Leinster House last week, reports Aideen O’Flaherty.

As previously reported in The Echo, performing arts teachers have been left frustrated by the changing guidelines in relation to the reopening of their schools, particularly after many of them spent large amounts of money earlier this year kitting out their studios so they’re Covid compliant.

Performing arts 2

Nicole McDonald (Steptacular Performing Arts), Emma Mahony, Senator John Cummins and Ciara McDonald. Front row: Aisling Fennell (Attitude Stage School) and Sharon Clancy (Superstars Stage School)

Schools were unable to reopen, until the government decided to make a minor change to the guidelines specifically for dance schools following the protest last week, where they advised that training and practice could be undertaken on an individual basis – but classes could not be held.

Rob Murphy, director of Dramatic Action Stage School in Palmerstown and Crumlin, told The Echo: “A lot of the venues I use still won’t let me reopen, and we’re waiting for the Arts Council to give more specific guidelines.

“My hope is that the Arts Council will do their research, come up with the guidelines and release them ASAP.”

In a statement that was released last week, the government outlined that one-to-one training for dancers could take place, but they warned that this “should not be viewed as a way of reintroducing organised dance classes which are specifically precluded under the current public health measures.”

Rob added: “It feels like I’m completely back to where I was before. I want to open my school back up more than anything, but I want to be professional about it.

“I want them to let schools open up again with one-way systems, screens, PPE, hand sanitisers and social distancing.”

While Rob said he felt a sense of solidarity with other performing arts teachers when he took part in the protest last week, he said he felt let down by the government’s focus on dance classes, and that no guidelines were changed for drama and singing classes.

For Nicole McDonald from the Firhouse and Templeogue-based Steptacular Performing Arts, who was also at the protest, allowing individual training is a positive first step for the reopening of schools.

“It’s great, it’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “I feel like we’re being given the same opportunities as everyone else, and the kids are delighted that they can get back in and train.

“It’s a great feeling.”

Emer Higgins, Fine Gael TD for Dublin Mid-West, said: “I am delighted that children and adults who dance will now be treated equally to those who play sport.

“Dancers up and down the country deserve the right to practice too, they are also athletes.

“They need this outlet now more than ever.

“Studios and facilities around the country will ensure the highest levels of sanitization, mask wearing and strictest adherence to protocols such as staggered arrivals so that people can get back to dancing and performing in pods of one.”                        

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