Photo Credits: KATHERINE FRANKS
Businesses transition to outdoor studios, forced to pause live classes during wildfires due to poor air quality
The COVID-19 pandemic took a severe toll on businesses around the country, especially those based on in-person attendance such as dance and yoga studios. To comply with safety regulations, studios like Sac Dance Lab and Davis Barefoot Yoga Studio transitioned to an outdoor class environment.
“Sac Dance Lab is Sacramento’s leader in dance training […]” the official website reads. “With a focus on commercial styles and professional dance advocacy, Sac Dance Lab is a unique, boundless place to train for aspiring and professional dancers, as well as non-professional enthusiasts.”
Jalen Tyre, a hip hop instructor at Sac Dance Lab, explained that classes prior to the pandemic were lively with many new faces and a lot of “good, new energy.”
When the pandemic began, classes initially switched to a virtual format taught through Zoom and Instagram Live. Tyre explained how this alternative made the teaching experience feel very different, and that he preferred being able to see his students in order to “feel their energy.”
Once the government allowed it, classes resumed in the studio’s parking lot, but with more safety precautions and modifications for dancing outdoors.
Darina Kellom, a jazz funk instructor at Sac Dance Lab, said that the studio made sure that each class had a maximum of fifteen people and students were spaced at least six feet apart.
This new format, however, was difficult for both students and instructors at first. Without mirrors, dancers could not as easily visualize their movements and were more exposed to distractions such as heat and excess noise. To combat this, instructors taught choreography at a slower pace and adapted certain moves, projected their voices and learned to be more vigilant in watching students.
“I’ve become more patient because there are a lot of things that we take for granted being inside of a studio,” Tyre said. “The difference for me is making sure that I stay in tune with what I’m doing.”
Tyre urged other dance instructors and similar businesses wanting to transition to outdoor services to think outside the box.
“As artists, teachers and creatives, we have the space to create our own lane again,” Tyre said. “We have control over what we can do and how we do it. It’s a time for us to be innovative.”
Kellom said that dancing and art in general is important for ourselves and those around us.
“[Dance] helps give us ways to cope, it helps us with self-care, it helps with endorphins,” Kellom said. “In so many ways, the arts are so impactful.”
Outdoor classes were canceled due to poor air quality from wildfires on Aug. 20, but resumed on Aug. 31 when private group classes were offered inside the studio again. New changes included a limit of 12 students per class, registering before class, wearing a mask, screening for symptoms upon arrival and keeping a social distance of six feet at all times.
Davis Barefoot Yoga Studio also transitioned to an outdoor class format. The studio’s official website provided further insight on their goals.
“We believe that yoga benefits our lives no matter what brings us into the studio,” the official website reads. “[…] Our goal is to support you through your journey and help your bodies expand safely and comfortably into new possibilities.”
Co-owner of the studio, Wai-Mei Yeung-Boswell, said that during the studio’s first two weeks of being closed, they offered classes through Facebook Livestream, then later switched to Zoom.
Robert Boswell, who also co-owns the studio, explained that yoga is going to rapidly transition to a different approach.
“We have to adapt as much as possible,” Boswell said. “We have to rethink how we present yoga and how we present the physical space.”
The studio reopened on June 20 to transition to outdoor classes with more safety measures such as marking places on the floor for social distancing, minimizing contact by encouraging online prepay and wearing masks. During the wildfires, classes moved online due to poor air quality until Aug. 29.
Boswell believed that the pandemic has presented a bigger need for yoga and exercise in general.
“Yoga offers the opportunity to release, go inward and use your physicality,” Boswell said. “This is a lesson about patience and seeking serenity and knowing that it’ll all work out. Yoga teaches us that everything changes.”
He also offered some advice for other studios in a similar position.
“Now more than ever, we see the necessity to adapt and flow with society,” Boswell said. “We’ve come to a challenge of what it means to be in community. Now more than ever, we need to learn new ways to have community.”
Written By: Jelena Lapuz — email@example.com