Dancing Through COVID

Starting at the beginning!

2020 was looking to be the best year yet. Student numbers were the best they had ever been and we were excited for all the amazing things to come. Little did we know that it would be a year like no other and not in the way we thought. News of a virus in China was just starting to come too light, but it was so far away and we didn't think much of it.

Term 1 started and wow it was exactly what we through it would be, enrolments were flying in and it was well on it way to being my most successful year running my business. Everything that I had worked so hard to achieve over the last 9 years. Life was so good, teaching was amazing and running the business was so exciting. News that covid was starting to spread around the world started to take over every news outlet but here is New Zealand it didn't feel completely real YET! Mid March 2020 the government introduced a new 4 level system which meant we could end up in lockdown but I think at that stage no one actually knew what that would look or feel like. 25th March 2020 they announced that we would be going to level 4 which meant stay at home, don't go out unless getting food or seeing a doctor. As a business owner who taught dance and had social interaction all day everyday this was so distressing as I had no idea what the next year would look like and how I could keep my business going. I cried so much thinking that was the end of everything I had worked for but little did I know it was the easiest part of our COVID journey.

The world was in a complete lockdown and everything and everyone all around the world was slowly moving to this new way of communication called Zoom. For me the thought of teaching dance over a video call was overwhelming and scary. At first I wanted to wait out the lockdown, it couldn't last forever could it? I had all these thought of how I could make up lessons missed and how this would all look moving forward. To be honest it was the unknown, the new, the feeling of being out on control that got me the most. I had put off the idea of Zoom all together until one of my private lesson students asked me to do a private lesson over Zoom to go over some of her solos as she was doing online competitions (who know that would have ever been a thing). So there I was trying zoom for the first time. The experience was nothing how I imagined it to be, we got so much done and had so much fun and just being able to see my students was so good and gave me a sense of normal. I decided that I would move all my term 2 classes onto this new thing called Zoom. Some of my clients were on board but a lot of them found it strange and wasn't interested. I guess for them it was so new and as no one knew how long lockdown would last just didn't see the point. What most people forgot was that just because we were in lockdown didn't mean that all my bill disappeared. I still had to pay rent for two studio so many of my clients decided to just wait out the lockdown and then return once we went back to the studio. This put a lot of stress and anxiety onto an already strange, stressful and uncertain time. The only thing that kept my spirits up and kept me going was seeing my students on Zoom and still getting to teach dance.

Lockdown lasted for 6 weeks and when we finally got back to the studio things looked so different, we couldn't hug, we couldn't touch, we couldn't do lifts, parents had to wait outside, everything had to be cleaned over and over and over again but it was the end of COVID (well so a lot of people thought) we made it out the other side. The year carried on and things were looking great, we started show work and a week later we go back into level 3 lockdown, just like that we went straight back to online and started teaching show dances. We didn't know if we would be able to do the show or not but we didn't give up hope and the last lockdown was 6 weeks and we spent 4 of those in level 4 so going into level 3 wasn't that bad. We were right and just like that we we were back in the studio like nothing ever happened. All while the whole world was in lockdown here in New Zealand life seemed pretty normal, we escaped COVID while the whole world was in a complete panic.

Looking back now we were so luck to have been able to do our show and carry on as per normal. Covid felt mostly like a thing of the past. 2021 started and we all celebrated thinking we had overcome COVID and again the year looked bright and full. The year started even better than 2020 and I was excited about the year as could it really get worse than 2020? Just like that news of a new variant starting filling up the tv and news outlets and it was coming closer. Delta creeped its way into New Zealand and we had a short lived lockdown February to March, everyone carried on back on Zoom and we were back in the studio in no time. Things didn't seem too bad. The year went on and we went from strength to strength as a studio we had exams prep happening, show planning was well underway, competition were so fun and we were getting excited for what the year still had coming. Little did we know that all of that was about to change and the year we thought was coming would be worse than what we could have ever imagined.

17 August 2021 we went back into Level 4 lockdown and I think everyone would be with me in saying we through we should be fine 6 weeks from now we will be in the studio again carrying on with show planning. Being a planner first thing I did was contact Hawkins Theatre and get a new date for our show just incase. We started back with online classes and show planning was still in full swing, I was ordering costumes, painted backdrops and started making props. Not once did I think we would not be doing our show, in my mind it would either be our normal date or February so we are fine... let's go! Term 3 was great as from a financial point of view everyone had already paid for a term so we just carried on, as term 4 creeped closer and closer and lockdown didn't seem to be ending anytime soon my anxiety started to get worse and worse as I knew that a lot of my students would not come back in term 4, especially my little ones. It was so hard to get them all to concentrate online and I completely understood from a parents point of view. The worse part was my bills didn't go away, rent didn't stop because I wasn't using the studio. All of a sudden I was operating two studios on a 1 studio income. I was still doing okay because my show will still go on, we wouldn't be in lockdown or restrictions for that long surely?

4 months later we are still stuck in a new type of life and this new traffic light systems with vaccine passports start but we are finally in orange which means we can do our show with no restrictions... YAY! Invoices go out and tickets go on sale, maybe now I can catch up on what was lost and start the year on a high. Things where looking up and my anxiety was slightly better. BUT.... just like that Covid won again and a week later we are back in red, show cancelled, O man can this really be happening, tears running down my face, emotions of failure and disappointment filled my mind and body. In that moment I felt so num, I felt like my world around me was falling into a million piece and I couldn't stop it. Being a perfectionist and a control freak, feeling like thing are out of your control really does make it hard to focus and try to find a way out. There were moments that hiding under the covers and pretending like nothing was happening was all I wanted to do. I would cry and not be able to stop no matter how hard I tried the tears would just run down my face. I didn't know what to do, I didn't know were to go next, I didn't know how I would get myself out of the mess I was in. There were many times I put a smile on my face and pretended to have everything under control but all I wanted to do was cry. I shut myself off from everyone just so that I didn't have to talk, or try not cry. The term started and I was hopeful that things would pick up and we would be up and running again so that I could pay everyone back and just get on top of everything again as so much money was put into a show that now couldn't go ahead. It didn't take long to realise that Covid had not just made me want to hide but it made so many people hide and my student count was lower than it had been in 4 years. I was so far behind and I was definitely not getting out anytime soon. Trying to figure all of this out I slowly came to the conclusion with a lot of prayer that I would have to make the hardest and heart breaking decision very soon.

Anyone that knows me knows that dancing is my everything and that owning my own studio was a dream I have had since I was a little girl. Building my very first studio was an amazing dream come true and everything I could have imagined at the time went into that studio, I put my heart and soul into building my first studio. It was apart of who I was and it was something that made me who I am. Sounds weird but it was very much apart of me, like a child. As things became clearer and clearer to me I know what needed to be done and it broke me. I needed to let one of my studios go, I needed to make this decisions because if I didn't make it sooner rather than later, I would lose everything. Many people would look at this and say it's just a studio it can be built again which is why I told you the back story. Letting go of unit 1 was the better option out of the two as studio 2 has more space and is better laid out of Acro. When I made the decision I knew it was the right one and I was happy for the first time in a while, I saw a little light at the end of the tunnel. What I didn't know was that it was the start of a grieving process, the start of a process that will take me through emotions I didn't think I would feel. As every part of the studio 1 started to move out a little bit of me went with and the reality of it all began to set in. The last day of the studio was so hard to walk out but the one thing that made it better was that I could leave the dance floor. Leaving the dance floor gave me hope that at some point we will be back. That following week the landlord was showing the unit to someone new and I was so upset not at him or the new people but I just felt like it was mine and someone was taking what was mine. That night I realised the unit had been hired out and I dreamt of every situations possible of what they could be using it for, I hardly slept that night I was so sad. The next day I found out that they would be ripping out the floors and making it into a storage room for a car. I felt like someone had just punched me in the tummy. The one little bit of hope I had left that we would be going back was going to disappear into nothing. I was so angry, I was so sad, I was so disappointed and I felt like even more of a failure. My baby was gone completely!

It took me a week to work though my emotions and as I did that I slowly made peace with what was happening around me and as I did that life became a little more normal I started getting my spark back. Getting my confidence back is an ongoing process but I what to succeed and I want to get through this with everything inside me. I love what I do and I love being there to make a difference in all my students life and whether I am doing that in 1 studio or 2 studio doesn't matter. Covid is by no means over and I don't know what awaits us in the next year or two but if I have learnt anything over the last two years is to live in the moment and to make the most of every opportunity we are given because you just don't know how long it will last.

Life is full of seasons, whether that is in a form of a job, friendships, or place you live. Think about your life today and say thank you for one thing you have that can be taken at anytime. Live your life with humility, thankfulness and kindness as we don't know what is happening in the worlds of the people around us or what is coming for us.

Being kind to urself in every situation and being kind to others, will take you far in life!

I do hope this has encouraged someone and even if it makes you feel less alone today, then telling my story was worth it!


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