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Emma Hardy outside Innovation Dance Studio

Helping Ealing dance through lockdown

While many business activities slowed down or came to halt in the coronavirus pandemic, the start of the outbreak could not stop a local studio from sharing a love of dance with the whole community.

Based in Pitshanger Lane in Ealing for the past 10 years, Innovation Dance Studio shut its doors prior to government requirements last March out of safety concerns for the students.  But it found another way to keep going. Taking inspiration from Joe Wick’s PE sessions, the staff decided to launch free daily online dance sessions. Open to everyone, the free sessions ran from March to July during the first lockdown.  

“Joe Wicks was starting PE with Joe to help keep the nation fit, and we wanted to do the same with dance,” said Emma Hardy, director of Innovation Dance Studio. “It was all a bit of a shock at first and we were trying to figure out the best way, so we started off running a free daily family dance class, just a fun session for all ages.

“For us, we were used to dancing five-six hours a day and some kids come to six-seven classes a week and to go from that to nothing was a big shock, both mentally as well as physically. So we were just going down the route of trying to keep all the kids and ourselves active, to be honest.”

With the dance sessions up and running, the company then went on to provide a weekly timetable of classes, again free and open to everybody on YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Instagram live and Zoom. The classes provided another way for dancers at the studio to stay connected to their teachers and classmates, while giving others in the community another opportunity to keep up their physical exercise.

“I reckon we probably accessed about 1,000 people,” said Emma. “Some kids accessed it sort of every now and then, and then there were some that were literally there every day, which was great. We just wanted to keep everyone going.”

The studio also decided to run fun events such as a Zoom escape room dance party, whilst being a fund raiser for the NHS and many dancers also took part in a National Tapathon, raising funds for a lung cancer charity.

One parent said: “The classes provided by Innovation Dance during lockdown were a lifeline for my daughter. She attended every class religiously, as they were the highlight of her day. A wide range of dance styles were offered with exciting choreography and physical challenges. The encouragement and enthusiasm of the teachers made her dancing at home experience a very positive one and something she will always remember.”

Since the first lockdown, the studio has had to adapt to multiple government restrictions, reducing class sizes, enforcing social distancing, limiting contacts and increasing cleaning when in-person classes are able to run and switching to a limited online offer when required to close.

“I think I clean more than I teach dancing now,” said Emma. And, when she is teaching, Emma said:  “You’re challenged to try to make the class content interesting and you’ve just got to teach it in a different way trying to think of different things so the students can still learn creatively.”

Emma and Student Amber outside Innovation Dance Studio
Emma and dance student Amber outside Innovation Dance Studio

It has been a challenge for her dancers too, but she said: “One thing I would really like to get across is the dedication of the children that come to dancing and their ability to adapt because through all the  lockdowns they keep coming to class. Whether it’s online or in person, they are working really hard and they have adapted really well.”

While flexibility has been key to adapting to the challenges of the past year, Emma admits that the pandemic has taken its toll on her business. She said: “The studio has been really financially impacted by this, and without the government grants that are coming up we won’t be able to continue.

“We are trying to keep going where we can for the sake of the children, being able to keep going and to give that to them rather than for financial benefit.”

A number of the dance sessions are still available on Innovation Dance Studio’s Facebook page if you want to give their lessons a try and get moving.

To find out more about what is on offer at Innovation Dance Studio visit: www.innovationdancestudios.co.uk and for your dance wear needs visit: www.innovationdanceboutique.com which offers click and collect, and in person shopping when restrictions allow.

Read more in our series on local businesses in COVID-19

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