Iowa dance studio owners confused by governor’s health proclamation

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 8:07 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Some small business owners say they’re confused over the governor’s new proclamation announced Monday.

Under the state’s new public health proclamation, group fitness classes and youth and adult recreational activities, like dance classes, are prohibited. However, the proclamation allows high school and college sports to continue and gyms to stay open.

On Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for Gov. Kim Reynolds' office said that fitness, martial arts, and dance classes can continue with in-person instruction as long as participants are at least six feet apart. If they follow that guidance, then it’s no longer considered a group class but an individual recreational activity. The original proclamation did not state this explicitly.

Natasha Leas, the owner of Studio 360 Dance School in Cedar Rapids, said she’s done everything possible to keep her dancers and community safe throughout the pandemic.

“We haven’t had a student or any staff members have Covid that came from here,” Leas said.

In the over 1,700 dance classes since the last shutdown, Leas said there has been one positive case of COVID-19, but no community spread in her studio. She believes that’s thanks to mitigation efforts like requiring social distancing in classes, while also wearing masks.

That’s why she’s now getting to know her competitors, other studio owners in and around Cedar Rapids. Overnight Monday, nearly 100 dance studio owners across the state started a petition to the Governor, outlining the work that they believe keeps their environments safe and why they should be able to continue to operate.

“It felt a little bit like we are not represented in the state we don’t have a loud lobby, maybe of a sort, so banding together to show there is no community spread, it just seemed a little willy-nilly [to decide to close dance schools,]” Leslie Nolte, owner of Nolte Academy in Coralville said.

Nolte said it seems the places forced to close in the proclamation were cherry-picked. That’s because places like gyms remain open and high school and collegiate sporting events can continue.

“We, just as much as anyone else, want to get on top of the situation. It just feels particularly frustrating to hear that some activities could go on without masks, without social distancing. And then we’ve gone to the extent of masks, plus social distancing, plus UV scrubbers,” Stephanie Vogl, co-owner of The Dancer’s Edge in Cedar Rapids, said.

The owners said teaching virtual dance classes is possible, but some parents withdraw their students if in-person classes aren’t an option.

“Dance, as we said, can work on Zoom, but it’s not sustainable, we need that face to face instruction for us to make it through the winter,” Nolte said.

By 5 o’clock Tuesday, the group’s petition reached over 2,200 signatures.

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