A post-COVID dance studio for Paul Malek
Our post-pandemic return to dance is a highly emotive topic. In response, Transit Dance Artistic Director, Paul Malek, has created an online workshop for dance studio owners which explores how to do this safely and with compassion.
Paul’s workshop, The Road Back, is targeted at dance studio owners and teachers who are currently planning their path back to face-to-face learning. He theorises that the dance industry has evolved into a structure that is much less about teaching dance steps, and more focused on providing a holistic education in the Arts.
What will the ‘new normal’ look like when dance studios finally open for business?
Paul breaks his workshop into three clear ideas:
Be attuned to our changing world
As we scroll through history, we become aware that humankind has experienced similar widespread devastation. Previously, life after pandemic saw revolution and the creation of a new kind of world. As a result, people became more advanced, resilient and agile.
“Nothing prepared any of us for such a massive shift in the delivery we do. In the last few months, I have realised the amount of new challenges that have arisen and the amount of lessons learned,” said Paul.
He explained that he had to change his own mental processes to deal with the sudden life changes brought about by Covid-19 and lockdown. To manage this, Paul came up with the concept of the three A’s: accept, adapt and advance.
“I had to accept that we were doing this [changing to online learning]. I had to adjust and adapt my mentality and physicality to advance,” said Paul.
He added, “As a business owner, each and every day you are in charge of the problems. You are a great problem solver. You just are. Keep moving forward. This is vocabulary for optimism about we can achieve in life.”
Create digitally-driven projects
Digital technology has been influential for Transit Dance’s progression into creating a successful online curriculum for its dancers. Part of the curriculum includes digitally-driven projects that allow dancers to virtually collaborate with other students and find new ways to explore their creativity.
In his workshop, Paul stresses that teachers should continue to encourage and empower students to be innovative through projects and performance outcomes, whether in person or online. Some ideas include the creation of live filmed performances or choreographic projects at home.
“Children learn at school by doing projects. You don’t need to be instructing them to do repetition every single class to make them great dancers and artists. Projects will build their creativity and these tasks can go for a few weeks.”
Producing a safe studio
As a return to normality beckons, dance studios are set to reopen in mid-to-late June, albeit with strict physical distancing rules in place. But a nervousness exists as studio owners, teachers, parents and dancers all wonder how this is going to be modelled.
Paul urges dance studio owners to recognise that their community should be able to easily understand the necessary safety protocols prior to reopening.
“We have to take our time. We implemented our own three-step strategy to return to face-to-face. Everyone knows that we will be moving back to the studio, despite being still in stage one. Be clear in what you are saying.”
When studio owners are creating health and safety procedures and communication strategies, Paul suggested the following considerations:
- Have a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page strictly relating to Covid-19 for parents and dancers
- Write a First Aid protocol that maintains health and safety procedures such as physical distancing
- Place brightly coloured tape on the floor to help control traffic flow
- Create a new timetable which staggers class start and end times
- Include signage around the studio to remind patrons of the necessary imperative hygiene protocols
- Write procedures specifically for late comers, parents and preschoolers
- Maintain a sign-in sheet for all patrons in the building
- Ensure hand sanitiser is on display and easily accessible in each room
- Prohibit the use of kitchens and shared spaces
The post-COVID world will see a very different dance landscape. Our upcoming return to studio-based teaching is the perfect time to focus on project building, skill development, digital enhancement and artistic learning, while also encouraging everyone to maintain extreme hygiene procedures and policies.
You can listen to Paul’s workshop podcast here.