Through the uncertainty and hard times that have accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, Northside ballet instructors have kept their students dancing through it all.
When the pandemic hit the area mid-March, Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet and Ballet Mississippi both moved all classes online with instruction happening primarily via Zoom.
Now that restrictions - set in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus - have begun to lift or become more flexible, students have returned to school and ballet studios across the Jackson metro.
Jennifer Beasley, artistic director at the Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy and Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet, said students began to return to classes over the summer, but they are still offering online classes for those who do not yet feel comfortable with returning to in-person instruction.
David Keary, artistic director for Ballet Mississippi, said students returned to the studio in early August.
Both have instituted safety measures to ensure the safety of students, such as requiring masks inside the building, only allowing students in the studio, enforcing social distancing and more.
“We are doing really well,” Keary said. “Registration is really strong.”
Keary and Beasley said one of the ways they are accommodating limited capacity rules is by creating additional classes so they can reduce the number of students in each class. Keary said they are limiting classes to 10 students each, and Beasley said theirs are determined by studio size.
“We screen them, take their temperature, spray their hands with hand sanitizer and then, once they’re screened, we allow them into their studio,” Beasley said.
In the studio, six by seven foot grids are taped off on the studio floor for students to stay within during class to allow for social distancing.
“We have our strict cleaning guidelines in place, and we sanitize the studios daily,” Beasley said.
Similar guidelines are in place at Ballet Mississippi, as Keary said students are required to have their temperature taken and fill out a questionnaire daily before entering the studio. They also have a strict cleaning and sanitizing schedule.
“Everything is very closely monitored,” Keary said. “There’s a lot of organizational preparedness that goes into this.”
As for their annual performances, Keary and Beasley said they have plans to move forward. However, back-up plans are in place depending on the state of the pandemic at that time.
“At this time we are still planning to have the Nutcracker,” Beasley said. “We have a date in mind and our theater is letting us keep the date now. So, we are going to move forward as if we are having it in December. Plans could change, but right now we are planning on having it.
“More performances with smaller audiences.”
In the event an in-person performance isn’t possible, they are looking into still performing the Nutcracker in the theater with no audience and selling tickets for a livestream of the show.
As for Ballet Mississippi’s Nutcracker performance, Keary said they will make their final decisions on how to move forward soon to allow for adequate time to prepare for the show.
“We will have to see what the theater will allow in that regard,” Keary said. They also have back-up plans in consideration.
“So it has been extraordinarily busy,” Keary said. “There is no dark cloud over here. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed and keep going forward.”
Beasley had similar thoughts for the fall of 2020.
“So far, so good,” Beasley said. “We are just taking it day by day.”