PIKESVILLE, md. — Darby Pack is the Director of The Maryland Academy of Dance. When she first heard about COVID-19, she had no idea the toll it would take on her school.
Darby thought lessons would be led remotely for a few weeks but those weeks quickly turned to months.
To keep students learning, Pack moved classes to a hybrid method.
“We still do a hybrid method. We meet in person outside, so we host classes outside in the grass, wherever we can find space. We host classes outside and then if it rains, which it has while we’ve been out there, we take classes to Zoom. So parents can get in where they fit in. If they’re not yet comfortable joining us outside, they still have the option to log in via Zoom,” says Pack.
One of her students, Chloe McCleod, says online dance classes have been a challenge.
Chloe explained, “I’m so used to dancing on Marley which is a specific kind of dance floor that dancers use to dance and the flooring was just different and having to use a chair as a ballet bar which kind of meant a little less support for me.”
Among many challenges, isolation and distance have been the biggest.
Chloe said, “It’s definitely sad and just knowing that you cant be able to see them. It’s just like I want to see my friends so bad. It just makes you so upset to not be able to see the ones that you love all of the time.”
Over 100 kids have dropped out of MAD due to financial hardship.
Pack explained, “We’ve probably lost about 25 percent of our students. Not that they won’t come back, but whatever the impact of COVID was too much for them to continue dancing. We really did try to do everything we could for families who were impacted financially. I committed to not dismissing any student based on finances. If the kid enjoyed coming to Zoom classes I wanted to just allow them to keep coming, because I felt like that would help with their emotional mindset. Some parents still just had to say, “I’m still working. I can’t balance at home learning, home school, and then dance.”
The Maryland Academy of Dance is projecting losing 30% of their revenue due this year.
Through the pandemic, Darby has been finding the silver lining. She encourages parents and young dancers to find hope and comfort in the arts.
“It doesn’t matter what you do just get moving. Dance is a healing art form. It can physically and mentally heal you, emotionally heal, but you just have to be willing to be free in your movement, in your body, in your mind and just let go. So, put on some music, put on some crazy fun music, and get on the floor, dance it out, and you’ll feel better,” Darby ended.
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