San Francisco lifted the Stay-at-Home Orders this week and while much remains unclear for many industries, one thing is clear in the Notice of Suspension or Restrictions of Indoor and Outdoor Activity issued by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Throughout the notice is the following reminder in bold, red type: ** Indoor Gyms & Fitness Centers Remain Suspended At This Time**
Dance schools/studios and yoga studios are considered “indoor fitness centers” or “High Risk” activity so they must remain closed to indoor activity in the current “purple tier”. As a result, many of these businesses are closed, or have developed virtual and/or outdoor programs. Those remaining open are getting creative to get by as we approach 11 months of rolling closures in San Francisco.
Dance Mission Theatre (DMT) is a nonprofit performance venue and dance school located in the Mission District of San Francisco. The theatre is operated by Dance Brigade, a female dance troupe with a focus on social change. Krissy Keefer co-founded Dance Brigade in 1984 and in 1998 Dance Brigade took on operations at Dance Mission. She is the Artistic Director and Executive Director at DMT. When the SIP mandates forced them to stop indoor activity, DMT started offering adult and youth classes virtually and some outdoor classes on the grounds of a local church and various San Francisco parks. In Fall 2020, through funding provided by the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, they opened the DMT Learning Hub, filling a critical need for parents working from home and their children distance learning at home. Students in the DMT Learning Hub spend the day doing schoolwork as well as drumming, crafting, indoor gardening and more.
6th Grader, Maeve Torres Benzler, distance learning online from the DMT Learning Hub
Fredricka Keefer, came to DMT with her mom Krissy. She is an original member of the Grrl Brigade (GB), a cohort-based program for girls and young women (ages 9-18) founded at DMT in 2004. Integrating intensive dance instruction, leadership development, feminist self- and collective-empowerment, and professional opportunities through paid internships and choreographic showcases, GB has launched many dance careers and supports over 100 choreographers each year. She has remained at DMT as an instructor and is currently the Grrrl Brigade Manager. She helps run the DMT Learning Hub along-side her mother Krissy, Bianca Mendoza, the Youth Program Manager at DMT and core staff and instructors at DMT. Fredricka says, “Parents have expressed that the pod has saved their careers, that is the most moving part of all of this for us.”
A letter from the Parents of a Dance Mission Learning Hub Participant to Hass Foundation Supporters read:
From the bottom of our hearts, we’d like to thank you for supporting the Dance Mission Learning Hub. It has been an amazing opportunity for our nine-year-old daughter.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on almost every aspect of our lives, and on the social and emotional well-being of our children. It is of course important to keep everyone, including our youngest family members, safe and healthy. But children need so much more than just primary school instruction projected onto them via video screens. Keeping them cooped up and on Zoom all day takes a heavy psychological toll. I will never forget a day in April, when we had to tell our daughter that the shelter-in-place order was being extended. Her face crumpled. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she hung her head and whispered, “I just can’t do this anymore.” Dance Mission had already been a part of our lives for several years. The Youth Program fostered in our daughters a love of dance – one that is never accompanied by judgments. Dance Mission makes dance healthy and safe. Now, the Learning Pod is doing the same for in-person learning during the pandemic: making it healthy and safe. It allows our nine-year-old to complete her online classwork, while safely giving her some of the social interaction and physical activity she craves. At Dance Mission, she is surrounded by positive role models and healthy influences. Her mental well-being is greatly improved. And while she is at the Learning Pod, we as parents can get our work done, and more easily manage her younger sister’s online learning.
Information on Dance Mission Theatre Adult and Youth Programming is available on their website: https://dancemissiontheater.org
Students at the Dance Mission Theatre Learning Hub enjoy activities inlcuding Taiko drumming after completing distance learning classes at thier respecyive schools on line. Photo Credit: Johanna Miyaki
Mayank Johri is the owner of Divine Yoga, a family-owned studio operating in the Mission Bay Area since 2008. They offered yoga in studio, pre-Covid, when the Shelter in Place orders went into place, they started offering virtual classes with Divine Yoga instructors online. Using two-way video for the live stream classes, participants are always seen and supported by a teacher, allowing instructors to provide all the support and personal interaction of a studio class but remotely from wherever you are. When outdoor group fitness classes were permitted, they began offering outdoor classes in Mission Bay and Golden Gate Park. Outdoor classes are safe, socially distanced and limited to 12 people. Johri says, “Instructors have been very resilient, and we have adjusted to livestream and outdoor fitness. However, business is operating at 15% of pre COVID, it has been a struggle to keep clients motivated to continue with livestream classes. I think many clients would like to continue with outdoor classes, however, interest in virtual classes is not as much as it was in the beginning of SIP and they are not as keen on taking indoor classes until COVID is tackled.”
With the mandates slowly lifting, but no clear indication about when indoor fitness activities will resume, business owners like Johri must do their best to stay up to date on safety protocols and be prepared for reopening, reopening information has typically been announced with little notice or guidelines. Johri indicated many fitness and yoga forums are sharing great resources on how to reopen safely withing the industry. He says, “All the clients comply with rules and wear masks while practicing yoga outdoors, I have very serious yoga practitioners, we have not encountered any issues with compliance, or following rules and mandates.
Divine Yoga is offering your first livestream class for free. You can see the schedule for outdoor and livestream classes on the website: https://www.divineyogastudiosf.com/
Divine Yoga Studio outdoor yoga class. Photo Credit: Divine Yoga Studio
ODC/Dance was founded in 1971 and was one of the first American dance companies to develop a technique based on the appreciation for pedestrian movement. Well known for their enchanting, annual holiday production of The Velveteen Rabbit, they are also known for the robust adult and youth programs, offering up to 200 classes weekly, pre pandemic. In a major pivot, the programming went completely virtual after the SIP mandates started. ODC has managed to bring 67 Adult classes and 47 youth classes to a live stream format through their ODC At-Home Classes. They created more flexibility by adding “drop-in” classes and series to the existing semester instruction format.
Kimi Okada is School Director, Associate Choreographer and a founding member of ODC. She explains the challenges with teaching dance to kids virtually as well the benefits. “Teaching technique is hard, but the classes are great for creativity.”, says Okada. “We developed classes like ‘Fun House’ that incorporate activities like treasure hunts with movement for kids ages 6-9, the first class is free to try.”
ODC School and the Rhythm & Motion Dance Program offers dozens of online classes with ODC At-Home Classes for all ages and all levels via Zoom.
Adults can get a virtual work out with “ODC fit: Fusion Integrated Training Pilot Program” or take free “At-Home Dance Classes” through “Dance 101”. For those seeking some social time there is “Drinks & a Dance” via Zoom. Think of it as a virtual night at the theater with friends that kicks off with in an informal, social chat and an overview of featured beverages that can be preordered for delivery including beer, wine, kombucha and coffee. Next up, a talk with show choreographers and special guests and then a live stream screening of a show, followed by a virtual Q&A with the artists. Tickets are available now for ODC/Dance Presents Drinks & a Dance: Dead Reckoning on Friday, February 12, 2021 (5:15 PM PT): An intimate discussion of the work with choreographer KT Nelson and special guest Mike Mills, Atmospheric Scientist.
Information about Adult and Youth Virtual programs can be found on the ODC website: https://odc.dance/
ODC instructor Blanche Brown teaching Afro-Haitian dance via live stream. PhotoCredit: ODC
Johri says, “We are all in this together. We know Yoga will help with managing stress and the feelings of isolation during these difficult times. People you can enjoy the benefits of yoga via livestream and outdoor classes.”
“While we prepare for all possibilities of phases during the reopening”, Okada says, “we will explore hybrids of live and virtual classes and rethink curriculum that can be done safely and with inclusion at ODC. We look forward to the return of fully live classes but its clear some form of virtual is here to stay.”