After successful fundraising earlier in the year secured them a new studio, the future of community dance school JD Dance was looking fresh and exciting.
The staff decided to take no wages for a month, and the extra money was put towards decorating their new space. However, the Coronavirus pandemic brought these new developments to a halt.
Jennie Doolan, 28, the owner of JD Dance said: “On the 14th March we had an opening, but it wasn’t as big as I would have wanted it to be because people were scared about Coronavirus.
“Then, the week after, we got closed and the kids didn’t see the venue after that.”
JD Dance remained closed until 25th July but ensured the spirits of both dancers and parents were kept high throughout the lockdown.
After discovering that Zoom dance lessons were not really working for them, Jennie took it upon herself to think of new ways of keeping the dancers engaged.
She would instead do scavenger hunts or quizzes via Zoom with the promise of driving by the winner’s house to throw sweets on their doorsteps!
“Some of the Zoom classes just didn’t work. When you’re sharing a house with four other kids or you’re sharing a laptop or phone it’s just not feasible.
“I just thought, every child and every adult had everything ripped away from them, I’m not going to force you to go on Zoom”.
As well as the Zoom activities, Jennie posted YouTube videos so that the dancers could dance along at home, as and when they wanted to.
Going in to the second lockdown, the Zoom classes have been much more successful. Jennie charges £5 for a Zoom class, which is £2.50 less than she would normally charge for a 2 hour in-person lesson on a Saturday.
Having grown up in the area, Jennie understands the financial position that many of the families are finding themselves in.
She said: “A few parents told me they lost their job in this lockdown, but they still want their child to dance.
“I’m not going to penalise one child for not paying when it’s not their fault their parent lost their job, and it’s not their parents’ fault.”
Throughout the lockdown, Jennie has been doing all she can to support the dancers, from making them all friendship bracelets to providing free packed lunches during her October dance camp.
She passed her teaching degree in July but has since been unable to secure full-time work. This means she is currently relying on agency work and the two days a week that she works at JD Dance.
Despite applying for a grant of £1300 to see them through the second lockdown, the application is taking longer than expected to be approved.
“I haven’t been to the studio for 10 days because when I go there, I think about how hard I worked, it’s all I ever wanted and now I’m just trying to keep it going by any means possible.
“All I keep seeing is community groups closing down, but this pandemic is not finishing me.” Said Jennie.
JD Dance is receiving ongoing support from parents, and according to Jennie, the children are hungrier than ever to dance.