Despite the fact dance is the most popular after-school activity for girls in Victoria, the government have all but ensured the collapse of dance schools through a litany of on-the-run policy decisions being made by bureaucrats with no understanding of the industry.
Today, while a large portion of regional Victorian businesses celebrate by opening their doors, nothing has changed for regional studios as they teach online in empty buildings with no COVID cases in their towns – all because dance schools have been inexplicably categorised alongside gyms.
Dance schools need to be reclassified immediately, and those with students aged 18 and under to reopen in line with schools. They are a unique industry that provides vital wellbeing, social and physical health to young Victorians.
Dance schools across Victoria have been frantically adapting their businesses since March, and have been doing it without government support. A recent survey from Ausdance Victoria shows over 50% of dance schools had not received a single cent of support from the Federal or State Governments, because of their business structure.
The recent sole trader grant of $3000 is the first support these studios have received, and is a tragically small amount of money given many businesses have been shut since March and $3000 barely covers a few weeks of rent in a commercial property.
The survey also shows a staggering 92% of studio owners across the state are worried that their business will not survive until March 2021 – these businesses are people’s livelihoods and this statistic alone demonstrates that the dance arts industry has been woefully supported by all levels of government.
Dance is the most popular after-school activity for girls in Victoria (source: Australian Sports Commission 2017)
Over 150,000 children attend a dance and performing arts studio each week (source: ABS 2016)
Dance provides physical and mental health benefits. Even one dance class can help reduce depression (source: University of Hertfordshire 2014)
Mike Harrison-Lamond, Chair of Dance Arts Alliance says, ‘This is a disgraceful way to treat an industry that provides incredibly important social, physical and mental development in the lives of young Victorians. In June the Victorian Government acknowledged us as a low risk activity and we went back in line with schools. Now they think we are the same as gyms, it makes no sense. Children can learn dance in their local primary or high school, yet a professional school can’t open to provide the same service.”
Mike Harrison-Lamond goes on to explain that “dance schools contribute $300m a year to the Victorian economy and we support teachers, independent dance artists, theatres, dancewear shops, and other related retailers. This is not a hobby industry, we are an important part of Victoria’s economic landscape.”
A petition has been set up, urging the government to allow dance studios to open. Sign it here, and make sure to forward this article to your local MP. We must petition for dance studios to be reclassified and allowed to open.