Danceworks Finishes its 27th Season Strong… and Gears Up for Season 28!

This spring was unlike any other at Danceworks, located on Route 53 in Denville. Like small businesses everywhere, the studio faced many new and unanticipated challenges as the world adjusted to life amid a global pandemic. When the Denville Public Schools announced a two-week closure in response to coronavirus, Danceworks quickly followed suit, wanting to be sure to do what was best for the dancers and families at the studio. During that time, it became apparent that life would not be the same for a long while.
Danceworks staff brainstormed ways to keep the dancers on track for their 27th annual recital, “Sweet Dreams”. They were motivated to keep dance in the lives of the hundreds of students who needed this sense of normalcy during an increasingly scary and unsettling time. Many platforms were considered including sending videos of class to the dancers, having the classes uploaded to a site for the dancers to access when they were able, and having live classes via a site like Zoom.
In the end, the studio decided to have a combination of all of these resources so that the students could continue to rely on dance for normalcy, exercise and creative outlet. Within the first week, students were emailed their class’ routines for the recital and asked to practice at their normally scheduled dance times. Instructors videoed themselves explaining technique, choreography and spacing. They also smiled and gave their students small messages of encouragement to keep them going at home.
By week two, dancers had access to a private website full of resources. Each class had a link to their choreography for performance as well as warm ups, games, word searches, coloring pages and more! Dancers practiced at home and sent photos to the studio to show how proud they were of their progress. The dancers also participated in a studio-wide “TP Challenge” by recording a few seconds of themselves catching a roll of toilet paper, dancing, and throwing the roll “to the next dancer”. The montage was put to music and shared on the private website as well as social media.
By the end of the two-week initial closure, it was evident that things would not be returning to normal and the studio would not be able to open in the near future. So, Danceworks instructors turned to Zoom to reconnect with their students and continue the season. At the studio, large monitors were installed in each dance room with web cameras and special microphones so that the instructors could see and hear their students well. Classes resumed according to their regular schedule and instead of physically coming to the studio, dancers logged into class from their living rooms, bedrooms, family rooms, kitchens and garages. It was a happy reunion!
Danceworks classes continued to work on their recital choreography as well as their dance technique via Zoom for the next three months, finishing their planned 33-week season strong at the beginning of June. Because their usual recital was not possible, the studio had planned a class-by-class in person recital at the end of June, but again plans were derailed as gatherings of that size were just beginning to be permitted. So Danceworks set the wheels in motion to put on a virtual recital via Zoom!
As the dancers prepared using their videos and website, Danceworks staff drove all over Morris County hand delivering trophies, plaques and medals to every dancer! The dancers’ packets also included a printed program, a certificate of completion for their Zoom participation, and of course… some glittery stars.
Meanwhile, each dancer created a performance space in their home. Some went all out with decorations and balloons! Costumed and ready, the dancers logged into their Zoom classes and performed for the camera. Director, Christine Kohler edited each recorded number to improve sound quality and add the “Sweet Dreams” recital graphics. At the end of the video, each dancer was introduced individually and was able to show off their award… a special touch that never would have been possible during a live show! The videos were emailed to each class as a keepsake of this unusual season and unique performance.
As the studio prepares for the fall season, dancers are finally coming back to the studio in person! It is a long-awaited moment that will be one of the happiest in Danceworks history! Since the studio will need to operate at a limited capacity indoors, students will also continue to participate via zoom. Classes that exceed the maximum number of in-person dancers will rotate so that everyone who wishes can get a chance to dance in the studio on a regular basis. Students can also choose to participate in a 100% virtual fashion from home.
In preparation for the fall season, Danceworks has implemented many strategies in order to operate in our new normal. The HVAC system has been outfitted with a UV light air purifying system. The studio is using environmentally-friendly, covid-approved sanitizing using an Ultra Low Volume sprayer between every class throughout the day. The studio will also be deep cleaned before classes each day. New traffic patterns will be implemented to streamline students’ entry and exit from the building. A covid check will be performed at the door for each student. And Danceworks’ waiting room will remain closed for now to limit the number of people inside. Students will have social distancing markers on the floor and clear instruction regarding spacing. Classes will be modified with distancing in mind.
Danceworks is looking forward to getting back to business-as-usual and can’t wait to have the studio full of giggles and pirouettes once more. Danceworks has been operating in Denville since 1993. Owner and Director, Christine Kohler is certified by Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey and Dance Masters of America. Students at Danceworks enjoy quality dance education from professional instructors in a supportive and non-competitive environment. If you would like to join Danceworks for their 28th season, please contact them at info@danceworksdenville.com or visit their website at DanceworksDenville.com.

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