Maria Huber-Mitchelson, owner/instructor at Rhythm Pointe Dance Academy, has been holding classes outdoors in front of the building so that students can continue to take lessons.

Maria Huber-Mitchelson, owner/instructor at Rhythm Pointe Dance Academy, has been holding classes outdoors in front of the building so that students can continue to take lessons.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Dancers improvise to keep learning amid pandemic

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 20, 2020

 Students at Rhythm Pointe Dance Academy have been  attending dance classes outdoors in front of the studio with social distancing.

Students at Rhythm Pointe Dance Academy have been attending dance classes outdoors in front of the studio with social distancing.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Staying active and engaged in athletic activities can be a challenge, especially during a worldwide pandemic that caused many businesses to close and many to continue to stay closed.

Once some businesses were able to reopen, many were forced to compromise in order to keep customers and employees safe.

Rhythm Pointe Dance Academy in Shelby Township is one of these businesses that was forced to close for months and then was able to reopen, but with new guidelines.

The academy decided that, in order to keep everyone as safe as possible, it would begin to host dance lessons outdoors.

Now, it is holding classes outside with dancers 6 feet apart and instructors in masks, so the students can still enjoy their dance lessons while also staying safe.

The students practice so that they can compete in competitions each year. The classes are for participants of all ages.

Maria Huber-Mitchelson, the owner of Rhythm Pointe Dance Academy, said that the change in holding dance lessons outdoors has started off pretty well, despite the heat.

“It has been a bit challenging due to the heat. However, we just take more frequent water breaks. I personally love teaching and dancing outdoors. It is so much fun. I think it is going very well. I’d say it is amazing. It’s such a freeing feeling, dancing outdoors,” she said.

The academy has been improvising during the pandemic.

“We held our Super Summer Splash dance class registration outdoors. We were hoping that COVID would slow or would move to phase 5 by the time classes began July 6. However, there were different plans in store; due to COVID and our state being in phase 4, we decided, outdoors it is. Therefore, we moved all of our classes outdoors. We even teach tap and pointe outdoors on wood tap boards! It was such a fun challenge to organize,” said Huber-Mitchelson.

The academy now teaches outdoor classes in ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, technique, strength and stretch, improv, and progressions.

Classes are held outdoors at scheduled times.

“We are offering 30-, 45-, and 60-minute classes during summer. We are also holding a Frozen 2 Camp for young children, which is 1 hour and 15 minutes long. It’s the parent and dancers’ choice what they will choose to do,” she said.

Huber-Mitchelson said she thinks they might be continuing the lessons outdoors for a while.

“I feel we could possibly be doing this through August,” she said. She added that she hopes the state moves to phase 5 of reopening soon.

If the state does not move into phase 5 and winter arrives, the dance studio might have to improvise even more.

“If we have not reached phase 5 by winter, we will teach classes via Zoom,” said Huber-Mitchelson.

Kristen Yerkovich, a parent who has children who attend Rhythm Pointe Dance Academy, said she is happy to see the dance academy taking precautions to keep her children safe while they have fun.

“I am very happy that the studio where my kids dance is taking the COVID situation so seriously and thinking of our kids first. Both of my children, ages 14 and 17, are dancing and so happy to be back. It gives us, as parents, an ability to allow kids to do what they love while still being safe,” said Yerkovich.

Yerkovich’s children include her daughter, Kiley, who is 14, and her son, Cody, who is 17.

“Kiley started at age 3 dancing at RPDA and (on the) competition team at the age of 4. Cody began dancing at age 7 and started the competition team at age 8,” she said.

She said it was hard on her kids during the months when the academy was forced to close.

“It is a second family to them and their second home. The months we had to be away from March until July were very hard for them,” she said.

She said she pays for them to learn not only lessons, but also life skills.

“I pay for my children to learn discipline, take the wins with the losses, how to work with others and support their teammates, how to push themselves to reach the next level, to set goals and accomplish them, to be active instead of sitting in front of a screen all day. I can honestly say those life lessons are invaluable,” she said.

She said they’re just happy to be back and doing it safely.

“Rhythm Pointe has been our home for 11 years, and I truly would not want to be any other place, nor would my children. We love our Rhythm Pointe family and are so proud at all the steps the owner and staff are taking to ensure the balance of letting our children enjoy dance again while being safe during this trying time,” Yerkovich said.

Those who are interested in joining the outdoor dance classes can call the studio at (586) 726-9565 or email rhythmpointedanceacademy@comcast.net.

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