NORTH HAMPTON – “Dancing with the Stars” brought soccer players to dance in a living room. But a local dance studio owner had to get creative during the pandemic to make sure his students can stay safely on the dance floor.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio of Seacoast owner Amanda Deveau has shut down his business at 29 Lafayette Road North Hampton for three months during the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ballroom dancing is an activity where touch, closeness and practice and face-to-face performance are required, said Deveau. So she temporarily closed her three-year studio, but knew its reopening, given the threat of disease spread, would be risky.
With empty nests and retirees its main clientele, Deveau is aware that their age has made them vulnerable to the virus. She had to find safe ways for her current and even new students to enjoy the thrills and ballroom dancing exercises, both during the pandemic and after the lockdown was lifted.
“This pandemic really challenged me,” Deveau said. “In my industry, we reach people. I had to be creative.
The pandemic has ignited the internet with virtual instructions on just about everything, so Deveau has buckled down. With the help of platforms like YouTube and Zoom, she developed impractical dance lessons that she could teach online.
“I started giving virtual lessons from my home,” she said. “And here’s what’s crazy: On Zoom, I was teaching five or six couples who had never danced before. These people were dancing in their living room and loving it. It filled me with such joy.
Deveau taught an engaged couple how to dance impressively at their wedding, she said. And in an era when people basically hibernated inside their homes, hungry for the safe activities they could do, she found students willing to take their chances and try virtual dance lessons.
Deveau may have taken a risk with the idea, but his new clients haven’t. Deveau always offers the first lesson free of charge. Her new virtual students could try out ballroom dancing without spending a dime and in the privacy of their own homes.
To keep her current dance students excited about the sport, Deveau said she needs to be even more creative. Once reopened, she divided her 2,200 square foot dance floor into sections so couples could limit their dancing to one of those sections, and offered her students personal protective equipment.
“They are very good at staying in their zones,” said Deveau, “and they wear masks and we have other protection, like gloves, if they want to. stay six feet apart.
But ballroom dancing isn’t just about lessons; it’s about enjoying music and movement at events with others. So, every Friday evening, Deveau always organized dance parties for its clients, who shared their time and skills with like-minded enthusiasts. But it no longer worked inside the studio under COVID-19 restrictions.
Deveau looked outside the norm again. These days, weather permitting, there are dance parties on Friday nights in the parking lot outside Deveau’s studio. But for Deveau, there was another hurdle to overcome in order for his students’ experiences to be complete.
“Every two months we have showcases and they are very important to our students,” she said. “They all dress; some women wear dresses; they perform. The windows keep them excited about their dance; help them set goals.
Staging such extravagance in an austere parking lot was a problem until Deveau thought she could create a virtual storefront. Deveau had his students dress for a showcase, come into the studio and perform their best dances one couple at a time for his video camera.
“Then we put them all together in a movie,” she said.
Deveau presents his window film this evening (Friday) at 8 p.m. on the big screen in the parking lot of his place.
“Anyone can come and watch themselves in the movie,” she said. “We are very excited about this.”
Deveau has been teaching dance for 14 years, having two Arthur Murray dance studios in Florida before returning to his native New England to open North Hampton’s.
According to Deveau, ballroom dancing saw a boom in 2005, when “Dancing with the Stars” made it acceptable for men to hit the dance floor, as celebrities and athletes did in the TV series. popular. This was especially true after Pro Football Hall of Famer and Dallas Cowboys backer Emmitt Smith won the Mirrorball Trophy in the series’ third season after his 15-year NFL career.
Although Arthur Murray could draw a blank for anyone under the age of 60, Murray himself was an icon as a ballroom dancer, from 1914 until the age of 17. In the 1930s, he would create his special technique of teaching dance, with his wife Kathrine, which became the Arthur Murray Dance Studios.
Today, said Deveau, there are 260 Arthur Murray Dance Studio franchises around the world. But only one presents their own musical tonight in North Hampton.