25 June 2020 08:00
An open letter to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from Royal Academy of Dance
Following the government’s announcement on Tuesday the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) is writing on behalf of its members to petition for better representation of private dance schools and studios in the easing of restrictions in response to COVID-19. As a sector, we are ready and equipped for a safe return to in-person delivery.
As a world leading dance education organisation, our teachers, along with others in the sector are the grass roots foundation of the dance industry. What starts as a weekly dance class with a passionate and skilled dance teacher to engage a young child, can quickly become a lifelong affiliation with the arts. The RAD alone represents approximately 2,000 qualified dance teachers in the UK, many employing a team of teachers and administrative staff. Across the private dance school sector upwards of 10,000 dance teachers and staff, have all been significantly financially impacted by a pro-longed community lockdown due to COVID-19.
When the UK first experienced cases of COVID-19, dance schools and studios across the country were among the first to put in place social distancing measures and increased hygiene practices, in line with industry and government advice.
When those dance studios were required to close, thousands of dance studio professionals experienced an immediate loss of their income. While dance schools responded to the crisis by moving classes online, this is not an ideal or economically viable long-term solution. A return to studio activity, in accordance with health guidance and social distancing measures is the only avenue for the private dance school sector to regain financial viability and save their livelihood.
The private dance school sector is well equipped to control aspects such as distancing (spacing) and the volume of students within contained cohorts to limit contact, within the studio environment. Dance teachers also keep registers of their students and therefore, could contact and trace their student population, should they need to, unlike other venues due to open on 4 July. Finally, dance studios have minimal to no shared equipment and can adjust classes to remove props, and remove or clean and sterilise barres.
The RAD appeals to the government to provide a clear and concise road map for the dance school sector, to enable a safe return to studio activity. We appeal to the government to provide:
- A clear indication or announcement of a date for the return to indoor dance activity in July 2020
- Clarity within these announcements in identifying dance studios alongside other indoor sports and recreation activity, to remove all confusion
We acknowledge that recovery from COVID-19 needs to be a careful and considered process and that the health and wellbeing of students, teachers and the wider community is paramount. We also accept that any easing of restrictions may be reversed if the infection rate increases again. What we cannot accept, is an inconsistent approach and a fundamental lack of understanding of how our sector operates and its ability to operate in a COVID-secure way, if given the support requested. Our sector needs the support of its government now, if it is to have a chance of survival.
Arts and culture has proven vital to the mental health of Britons during lockdown and will continue to be vital as our country comes to terms with the longer-term impact of COVID-19. We have been overwhelmed with the ability of our teachers to rise above the crisis and to channel their energy on connecting their communities through dance via technology. However, the time has now come to begin to get back some of what we have lost.
Each year, nearly a quarter of a million candidates across the globe take RAD exams, recognised for their rigour and quality. They provide students of all ages and ability the opportunity to progress and achieve, by demonstrating technique, performance and musicality in dance. Achievement in dance also contributes to all-round development, in areas such as motor control, self-expression, physical fitness and stamina, discipline, mental ability, confidence and self-esteem – all qualities that will prove invaluable for life beyond the dance studio.
The RAD believes that the private dance school sector is a key vehicle for recovery for both physical and mental health for young and old but in particular, for our young people who have experienced unprecedented upheaval in their lives, their education and their sense of normality.
We will leave you with the words of our President, Dame Darcey Bussell DBE:
“I have great concern for the health and wellbeing of our teachers and students but we believe that the risk to our teachers’ long-term ability to continue to teach and to connect their communities through dance is now greater. As a sector we are ready to return to our dance studios safely and revive that special experience that can only happen in the studio.”
We thank you for your consideration of these important issues.
Luke Rittner, Chief Executive
Gerard Charles, Artistic Director