Every week, across Victoria, thousands of children attend their local dance studio to take classes and enjoy their favourite types of dance. From ballet to hip hop, dance is the second most popular activity for girls in Victoria (AusSport 2017), with over 150,000 children attending weekly classes (ABS 2016).
But COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the dance studio sector, and a new report from Ausdance Victoria – the state’s Peak Body for Dance – reveals that an alarming 92 percent of studio owners are worried their business won’t survive to March 2021.
Victoria is home to over 1,000 dance studios, most of them small businesses that make large contributions to the health and wellbeing of local communities. Collectively, this sector generates more than 10,000 employment opportunities and contributes over $300 million to Victoria’s economy every year. But a new survey released by Ausdance Victoria shows that, due to the impacts of COVID-19, 85 percent of dance studio owners have lost more than 50 percent of their income, with many losing up to 80 percent of students.
“Our industry is in crisis mode,” says Joanne O’Kelly, principal of the Joanne O’Kelly School of Dance in Langwarrin. “My business is just surviving by using an online forum. I am doing everything feasibly possible, but I’m not sure how long I can keep everyone engaged.”
Linda McKay, from Essentially Dance in Watsonia, agrees, saying, “Whilst my team are doing a wonderful job, dance is a challenging medium to teach online, particularly for younger students. More than 50 percent of our six-and-under age group have paused enrolments due to online learning.”
With 54 percent of studios either ineligible or rejected for State government support, 60 percent of studios have had to let staff go, with 90 percent reducing staff hours.
“The dance sector is highly interdependent”, says Michelle Silby, executive director of Ausdance Victoria and Ausdance NSW. “With artists out of work, and with many studios ineligible for economic stimulus support, the flow-on effect for the broader dance ecology, in terms of economic, physical and mental wellbeing, is profound. If these businesses collapse, thousands of independent dance artists and associated workers will lose their primary sources of income, and the cumulative effect on local economies, such as performance venues, dance suppliers and related retailers, will be exponentially catastrophic.”
Silby presented the results of the new survey to State Government representatives at a meeting last week, and Ausdance Victoria continues to work with multiple government departments to explore practical ways to help ensure this vital sector keeps dancing.
For more information and the full report, visit www.ausdancevic.org.au/covid-19-impact-survey.