This fall is shaping to be a more difficult year of studio ownership than Allison Evans or Megan Stice expected.
The two bought space in downtown Milford for a dance studio in June 2019 and opened Elements Dance Concepts. Opening a new dance studio in a town of only 2,000 was adventurous, they admitted, but promising turnouts in multiple classes brought them back for more.
“It was definitely a challenge for our first year but nothing we couldn't handle,” Evans said. “If we can make it through this year then we can make it though any year.”
Both Evans and Stice live in Lincoln and commute to Milford. While Lincoln studios remain closed because of to the city's new confirmed coronavirus cases, the two have found refuge in their welcoming small-town home where they've been able to open their doors for classes once again.
Elements hosted an open house on Aug. 22 to welcome returning and prospective dancers. The open house also allowed parents to see the building and listen to safety plans for the dance classes geared towards young students. There were clothes for sale and registration packets filled with literature on precautions, masks and sanitization.
“Going in, we're doing pretty good,” Evans said. “Our enrollment is down a little bit due to COVID but nothing we're worried about.”
Elements offers so many dance style classes that Evans sometimes loses count trying to list them all. There's ballet, tap, lyrical, contemporary and hip-hop, as well as the new adult-aged fitness classes of pound, yoga and misfit. Those weren't offered last year, and Stice and Evans are excited to make them part of the curriculum.
Elements also offers a competitive team of dancers who spend more time in the studio than the girls who use it strictly for recreation. Conventional ballet and hip-hop have been the two most popular classes for the age groups offered.
Like most educational institutions, Elements shifted to online classes in March. Instructors discovered soon after that there was no adequate substitute for in-person learning.
“Some wouldn't show up to online classes,” Evans said. “Everyone's excitement is back up. It's good for overall health, not only mentally but physically, to be active and around others their age.
“I've become a lot more of the emotional support person through this because girls will tell me this is one of their favorite places to be.”
Businesses struggled through the initial pandemic months. Some shut their doors, unable to recover from the economic burden. Elements found a way through that and returns to offering in-person classes starting the week of Sept. 7. And as thankful as the students have been for the studio, Evans and Stice are just as grateful for the students and community.
“It's so important for our kids to have that outlet of creativity,” Evans said. “Social, creative. So many people are being stuck at home and we're blessed to live in a small community and to be able to offer that business. I have friends in bigger cities not able to open.”
Students are expected to maintain social distance while in the studio for upcoming classes. But being together in the same room comes as a promising step for those involved.
“Meg and I are really grateful to have the community of Milford,” Evans said. “It's been good to feel welcomed with open arms and support our love of dance and creativity.”