London Inc. November 2020 - 13

ƥƞƟƭAshley Aarts
ƚƛƨƯƞThe new Dance London studio at ActivityPlex

leases space to independent operators (such as Dance
London), and for waiting parents, the centre is equipped
with a coffee lounge, gym and free wi-fi throughout. The
London facility is the third ActivityPlex, with additional
operations in Burlington and St. Catharines.
Aarts and her dance instructors were readying for
March Break classes when the pandemic hit.
" It was a huge challenge - we had to shut down March
13. We locked ourselves in and filmed online content for
all 89 classes that were scheduled to run that week and
learned how to upload the videos for all of our
students, " she recalls.
" Then we found out that there was
no end to the shutdown. We wouldn't
be back in the studio to finish the
spring session, and there would
be no end-of-year performance.
I decided to not charge fees for
April and May, although some
parents said, 'We understand
you're a small business,' and
paid the fees anyway. And we
found a way to put on a virtual
year-end recital. Every child put on
their costume and danced at home; we
filmed each one through Zoom and then
had a professional company put all of them
together to create a video. "
Aarts used email and private Facebook groups to
maintain communication with the dancers and their
families throughout the spring and summer, despite
planned summer camps being cancelled. She and her
team focused on preparing for fall classes in the new
location, not knowing what enrollment would be like or

what Covid-related restrictions would be in place.
" It was a huge leap of faith, " she says. " We were going
from three studios to five, from 5,000 to 7,000 square
feet of space. There were delays in construction because
it was hard to find enough additional plywood - a
dance floor requires two layers of regular plywood and
furniture-grade plywood for the surface. This is a tightknit dance community, and everyone is very supportive
of each other. We even had parents volunteer to move our
dance floors when we moved. "
The new space was ready for the first live
classes on October 20, with teachers and
assistants wearing masks, class sizes
reduced to meet health-unit guidelines and six-foot squares taped off
for younger dancers, each six feet
apart.
" The older dancers can move
across the floor, as they understand and are very respectful of
the need to keep their distance, "
notes Aarts. " The layout is much
better here, more accessible for
dancers of all abilities, and we have
a large space for parents with viewing
windows. "
Happily, the majority of dancers are back, she
adds. " Most dance studios are down 50 per cent. We've
dropped from 450 to 300 dancers. It's going to be tight
this year and we will need to rebuild, but we'll be okay. "
And her decision to locate in the new ActivityPlex has
already proven beneficial, says Aarts. " The other day we
had a family walk by that was here for karate and they
signed their daughter up for dance. " KYM WOLFE
NOVEMBER 2020 | londonincmagazine.ca | 13


http://www.londonincmagazine.ca

London Inc. November 2020

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