As of today, Friday 19 November, the Daniel Andrews Victorian Government has banned all dancers ages 12 to 15 from dance or performance, unless vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.
Many dance and performing arts studios across Victoria have their long-awaited dance concerts scheduled for tonight or this weekend, and now distressed studio owners across the state are having to notify families that their dancers cannot take part.
After a heavily disrupted last two years, many dance students haven’t been able to perform at all and have only just been allowed to return to their beloved dance studios after six extended lockdowns. They have finally had something special to look forward to in their upcoming performances, have worked hard to learn their routines under the most difficult circumstances, and have their costumes ready to go. Yet, they are now being kicked off stage once more. These same students have already been dancing together for weeks, and they go to school together each day.
Mike Harrison-Lamond, chair of Dance Arts Alliance, spoke this morning about the absurd and instant change.
“This has been such a ridiculous ride for our poor kids who just want to get onstage and perform,” he said. “We have 250 businesses we look after in Dance Arts Alliance, so we’ve been asking for months for consultation and some forewarning about what’s going to be happening once we hit 90 percent. The government has ignored us, and now all of a sudden, they have come out with this ruling to say, as of immediately, anyone who’s aged 12 and two months and over needs to be vaccinated.”
Previously the vaccine mandate was only for dancers aged 16 and up.
In frustration, he continued, “A lot of our kids haven’t had the time to be vaccinated. We’ve got concerts happening tonight for some of our businesses, and now all those kids can’t do the concert. They’ve been through so much over the last few months. It’s really hard for us because these kids have been damaged emotionally and mentally. The government is being so arrogant to say this is happening right now, and there’s no time to prepare. There’s not even three weeks or a month for them to get vaccinated! The open premises directions only came out in the middle of the night last night! Many parents haven’t been able to vaccinate yet, and I understand that a lot of parents have been waiting for a bit more data or support around this.”
Parents are beside themselves across the state. Of the 150,000 kids dancing each week across Victoria, now a large percentage of them are once again banned from the studio. The repercussions for our industry will be immense, as the 12-15-year-old age group tends to be the demographic where student retention can wane under the best of circumstances. Now, thousands of students are being forced off the stage and out of the studio, and many may not return.
The vast consensus around the world has been to not mandate COVID vaccines for young people but make them available for those who are vulnerable or would like them, yet the Andrews Government is enforcing the vaccine on our tweens and teens with no warning, instantly excluding tens of thousands of dancers from doing what they love.
With some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, it’s time to let our dancers dance! It is time for the dance community to unite once again and let our voices be heard. Contact your local MP and the Premier’s office about this absurd and rushed new ruling.
Contact Daniel Andrews:
(03) 9651 5000 and (03) 9548 5644
Contact Opposition Leader Matthew Guy:
(03) 9651 6701 and (03) 9850 7983
Who’s my MP? www.parliament.vic.gov.au/about/electorates
*Update: The article previously mentioned that children’s sport did not have the same mandate as dance and performing arts, however throughout the 24 hours since publishing, sports associations started reporting that they too had been sent a mandate.