• Encore Performing Arts

How Covid Changed Me

Wow what a whirlwind these last few months have been.  Like so many of you, I felt a range of emotions from fear and sheer panic to an unexpected calmness all within weeks. 

On the Sunday we were at Kate’s gender reveal party in the park and by Monday our whole world changed. 

I knew with Covid invading our country things would be different and we may have to change the way we implement hygiene policies for the dance studios. But never did I imagine we would be watching the news one night, and have our doors shut the next day.  Absolute chaos and uncertainty arose.  What just happened?  Is that it?  No more Encore? Have the past 17 years of hard work just vanished?  How are we meant to stay afloat with no one dancing for an uncertain amount of time? We just opened Aura studio; it was just starting to take off.  So many thoughts were going through my mind. 

My phone was exploding with messages.  I replied to my friends in our group chat and simply said “I’m going down guys, I’m going down fast.” 

Being one of the first lot of businesses to be shut down, it felt like this was only happening to me; small business owners, we were the ones who were going to take the fall the hardest.  Wasn’t I wrong?  It literally affected everyone in some way shape or form.  Everyone. 

My mind went to survival mode.  Ok how much money do I have in the bank, how long will that last us, what bills can I hold off on.  It was hectic.  I barely slept that night. 

In the week leading up to the closure, Kate and I had started a group chat with all the local dance studio owners. Something we are so glad we did.  After all, we were all in the same boat.  We all understood exactly how each other felt and we all understood the dance world so well.  We gave each other advice, helped come up with ideas, kept each other in the loop and were there for each other.  We knew each dance school runs differently and we all did what was right for our studios. But in doing this shared our thoughts and ideas with each other. It was so nice and proved to be very helpful over the next few months.

The next day we had a meeting and came up with a plan.  Kate and I went to the studio took all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer we could find and went home with a proactive plan in place…. Encore was going online! 

Now anyone who knows me, knows technology is not my strong point.  I know the basics in what I need to know but coming up with a complete online program and finding a way to deliver it to soooo many people was not an easy thing to do.  Thank goodness Miss Kate is much more tech savvy than me. 

We knew it was not going to be easy, we knew it wasn’t perfect, but it was the only chance we had to survive.  We also knew not everyone was going to be able to continue dancing online due to their own loss of income.  We were at the mercy of the Encore Families who could still afford to continue dancing during this awful time.  They would be the ones who would save us.  There is no other way to say it.  Those families, saved, us.  And not just us, they have given all our students a place to come back to now this nightmare is over.  What those parents have done for Encore and the future happiness of so many children is incredible.  I am FOREVER grateful.  And will never forget.  It makes me cry even writing those words.  What a community!

Over the next few weeks, the teachers did something amazing.  We pre-recorded 330 classes!  If you ever thought a dance teacher is just a dance teacher, think again.  They are the most productive, organised, energetic, creative, versatile, and passionate people in the world.  We can do so much more than count to 8. 

We had no idea what these fast-approaching government restrictions would entail; we had no idea if we were going to be physically locked out of the studio any day.  So, we moved fast.  We wanted as much content recorded, ready to go and distribute as quickly as possible.  We wanted the children to not miss out on technique, to not miss out on keeping up their strength and doing what they love.  Kate found an app that would keep the students interacting but also able to take the class whenever they could that week.  We wanted to make this process as easy as possible for families.  We had a plan and it was a good one and we went for it. 

I am so proud of what we achieved and so thankful to those who helped make it work.  We did it, we got to the other side.  All the dance schools on the coast made it, go us!

Over the next couple of months, I noticed so many changes in people, in general.  I said to my husband, this will either bring out the best in people or the worst.  It stripped us all back to basics.  I will be the first to admit I was in a little shock being home all day everyday with my 1 ½ year old and 3 ½ year old.  My purpose, my organisation, order, control, goal kicking motivation, list ticking job… was gone.  I knew I loved my work, but I did not realise how much I loved it until it was no more.  I was sad and I was not sleeping.  I felt like my purpose had been taken away.  I was a bit nervous too.  Will I be enough for the kids?  Will I be able to entertain and feed their minds like the beautiful ladies at day care do?  I started making a list of all the activities I could do to keep them busy.  I had this long list of structure and order for my household.  Looking back, I was simply trying to gain some sort of control because my world had just been turned upside down. 

But then something unexpected happened.  I started to notice there was no rushing out the door, no “quick get dressed”, and “hurry up and eat your breakfast” conversations.  I started to relax, I started to just ‘be’ with the kids.  We just chilled.  I laid on the floor with them for hours, stayed in our pj’s all day, I gave them endless cuddles… “You want a second breakfast?  No worries, we have no-where to be.”   It took a few weeks for my brain to slow down and the panic to subside but slowly and surely, I began to like it.  It started to make me appreciate the little things.  I listened to the kids, I had time to. I watched them play. With absolutely no plans and nowhere to be all day, life became... simple. There was no stress, no pressure, no rushing. I took the time to enjoy them. I embraced them. My 1-and-a-half-year-old was less whiny. Did he perhaps not feel so neglected? Was I now giving him so much attention that he didn’t need to cry anymore?  I do not know. I am a new mum. I don’t have any answers, I’m still learning. When my boys were born, I went straight back to the dance school, Jack was two weeks old and strapped to my chest. Because after all I felt like the dance school was my baby too. And you couldn’t keep me away if you tried.

The big aha moment was when I realised one day this will all pass, and we will all be back to our busy lives and I will miss this.  So, I breathed it in. I relaxed...finally.  Don’t get me wrong I love being busy, I thrive under pressure. But for the time being it was just... nice.

I started to notice the kindness in everyone around me too. My friends and family, oh man! They are awesome. The ‘just checking in’ text messages the quick phone call to see how we were doing.  How good are people!  And also, in public, everyone seemed a little more empathetic of each other. More understanding, a lot less greedy. More thoughtful and pleasant. Being stripped back to basics, it makes you feel… at ease.

When we made the welcome back video with all the teachers, I was buzzing when I got home. I loved seeing everyone, I loved jumping around the studio. Moving your body is so good for your soul. I felt alive, I was pumped. I knew even though I had this newfound respect for the slower paced life I also knew I couldn’t wait to get back into dancing. It was undeniable. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It was clear, I love my home life, but I also love my second home... Encore!

Taking a step back and soaking up family time will always be a good thing, but I am also so excited for the future of the dance school.

I feel changed from the whole experience. I want to reach out more to people who are having a hard time. Help families, be there for the students (who ultimately will never quite understand what happened and why we all took a break from life). I want to let them know they can come to us; they can talk to us. We are here for everyone.

I went from sheer panic, stress, worry, sadness to complete contentment. 

I have learnt a lot.  My eyes are wider. I feel gratitude every day.  I have missed my dance family so much.  But I will never forget the good that came out of Covid. 

Love Miss Zoe

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